Queensland has battled through the toughest days of its treacherous start to the bushfire season while NSW is experiencing snow on one fireground.
However, both states are united about one thing — they are desperate for rain.
The most dangerous bushfires in the state as of Monday afternoon are at O’Reilly in the Gold Coast hinterland, and south of Stanthorpe in the Granite Belt.
Both are considered emergency alert level and people are being told to evacuate.
The Queensland Fire & Emergency services said those affected by the O’Reilly fire, expected to impact Lamington National Park Rd, must “leave immediately” while residents around the small town of Ballandean must “leave now”.
“Follow your bushfire survival plan now,” the Queensland Fire & Emergency Services said.
“If you do not have a plan, your safest option is to leave now if it is clear to do so.
“If you are not in the area, do not return, as conditions are too dangerous.”
The Ballandean blaze is moving in an easterly direction from the New England Highway towards Girraween and is expected to impact Rees Road, Eukey Road and Pyramids Road.
The fire is not threatening any homes but residents have been warned that strong winds are still making conditions volatile.
An evacuation centre is open at the Ballandean Hall and Sports Club.
Queensland’s Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said today the emergency is far from over, as firefighters battle more than 70 fires.
“I think we are through the worst of it, but we still have a couple of days to go before it really starts to cool down,” he said.
A fire at Sarabah in the Gold Coast hinterland destroyed 11 homes and the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge.
One of the oldest nature-based resorts in Australia, which dates back to the 1930s, now lies in ruins.
Its smouldering remains are surrounded by the blackened remnants of what used to be lush rainforest in the Lamington National Park, west of the Gold Coast.
Part of the fire on Monday afternoon was travelling towards the community of Numinbah Valley, northeast of Binna Burra, where locals are being urged to “stay informed”.
Water bombers are being used to subdue the blaze as ground crews desperately try to get on top of the fire.
A total of 47 homes and properties across Queensland have been declared either damaged or completely burnt down since the crisis began on Thursday.
Locals have been warned more properties could go, and livestock losses are expected to be significant.
Crews have managed to contain a fire that broke out at Linville, in the Somerset Region inland from the Sunshine Coast, on Sunday.
Residents had earlier been told to leave if they did not have a bushfire survival plan. Current advice is to stay informed in case the situation worsens.
QFES predictive services inspector Andrew Sturgess said the state had never before seen such serious bushfire conditions, so early in spring.
“So this is an omen, if you will, a warning of the fire season that we are likely to see in southeastern parts of the state where most of the population is,” he said yesterday.
Acting Premier Jackie Trad said climate change meant the state was facing a new era of fire risks.
“There is no doubt that with an increasing temperature with climate change, then what the scientists tell us is that events such as these will be more frequent and they will be much more ferocious,” she told reporters.
Fire authorities have warned the danger posed by the Binna Burra fire will not be over for days, with strong winds expected to persist until tomorrow.
“We’re still very much in defensive mode,” QFES assistant commissioner Kevin Walsh said yesterday.
Mr Walsh previously said that there would be “no reprieve until about Tuesday”.
“This still won’t be over for many days to come,” he said.
Mr Walsh said firefighters “stood side-by-side” battling wind gusts of up to 90km/h.
It’s not safe for some people to go home but one man who has says the landscape now looks otherworldly.
“We have bits of charred mountain all around us. It’s a bit surreal,” Jason Nelson told AAP after going home to Witheron, south of Canungra.
Stanthorpe woman Samantha Wantling said the tension in the town is palpable, despite the news that fire crews have contained the blaze near the town.
She said locals are used to bushfires, but the speed of the one that hit on Friday night and how close it came to the heart of the town was terrifying.
She is fearful about the months that lie ahead, given the severity of the drought on the Granite Belt.
Dams and water tanks on rural properties are empty. Stanthorpe itself is subject to emergency water restrictions of 100 litres per person per day, with the supply not expected to last until the end of the year.
After that the council will have to truck water in.
“We need rain. That’s the only thing that’s going to save us,” she said.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Further south, firefighters are battling several out-of-control bushfires across NSW with strong winds causing challenging conditions for crews.
Despite cooler weather across NSW, strong and damaging winds of up to 70km/h ramped up fire activity with very high fire dangers in the state’s far north coast, north coast and New England areas.
Firefighting efforts on Monday were focused on a bushfire at Shark Creek on the NSW north coast which has been upgraded since the weekend to emergency warning level.
There has been an increase in fire and smoke as crews backburn near Angourie.
The RFS said crews are working to protect homes on the coast northeast of Grafton.
“The fire continues to burn in a north-easterly direction towards the villages of Angourie and Wooleweyah … under very strong south-westerly winds,” a spokesman said after midday on Monday.
The 7800-hectare blaze has also breached containment lines to the northwest and is moving towards Gulmarrad.
“Residents need to seek shelter … it is too late to leave,” the RFS spokesman said.
An evacuation centre is open at Yamba Bowling Club, 44 Wooli Street in Yamba.
The fire has burnt through 6900 hectares with crews warning residents to be aware of spot fires.
“The Large Air Tanker has dropped a line of retardant to the south of the villages, in an effort to slow the fire,” NSW RFS said.
An enormous fire at Bees Nest in Armidale has torched 66,000 hectares and is at watch-and-act alert level, as is the blaze at Long Gully Road in Drake (32,000 hectares), east of Tenterfield, which has burned across the weekend.
A number of homes have been lost or damaged by fires in the state since Friday with RFS building impact assessment teams planning to visit areas they haven’t been able to reach before because of fire activity.
A 66-year-old volunteer firefighter was on Friday hospitalised after his hands, arm, legs, back, face and airways were burned while he and a colleague fought a fire at Mount Mackenzie Road south of Tenterfield.
Neville Smith is in a critical but stable condition at Royal Brisbane Hospital. The Mount Mackenzie Rd blaze has burned more than 3500 hectares and on Monday afternoon was still being controlled by firefighters.
One home has been destroyed in the fire, four have been damaged and three facilities, including two car yards, have been ruined.
Forty-seven fires remained burning across the state as of 1pm on Monday, with 21 of them still uncontained.
Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha local government areas have been declared natural disaster zones, allowing residents to access state and federal financial support.
The Insurance Council has also declared a catastrophe for bushfires that have destroyed homes or property in the state’s north, giving priority to claims from affected policyholders.