‘Any lightning strike could almost certainly start fire’

DRY, gusty thunderstorms are forecast to sweep through tinder-dry southeast Queensland on Tuesday, fanning existing fires and sparking new ones.

The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted dry, gusty thunderstorms to sweep across the Gold Coast this afternoon, bringing with it the chance of lightning strikes which could start new fires in bone-dry bushland.

On Tuesday morning, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a fire weather warning for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt forecast district, saying thunderstorms little to no rainfall carry the risk of dry lightning that could ignite new fires.

Strong and gusty winds, coupled with hot, dry conditions, to make the situation more serious.

 

 

The Bureau of Meteorology says the storms, which have a lot of lightning and very little rain, could build up anywhere between the Queensland-NSW border and Kingaroy in the afternoon.

"The balance is going to be on the bad side of the ledger, because there won't be too much rainfall," senior forecaster Jonte Hall said.

"There will be a fair bit of cloud-to-ground lightning which has the potential to start new fires."

 

 

Mr Hall said high temperatures and "gusty and erratic winds" would make fire fighting conditions volatile before a cold front pushes through late on Tuesday evening.

More than 40 fires were still burning across the state on Monday. Officials have warned that some could burn for months because the ground is bone-dry and there is no significant rain in sight.

 

Fire crews will be tracking any storm activity and will use aircraft to identify any spot fires still burning tomorrow.

Fire and Emergency crew battle bushfire near a house in the rural town of Canungra in the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland, Friday, September 6, 2019. (AAP Image/Regi Varghese)
Fire and Emergency crew battle bushfire near a house in the rural town of Canungra in the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland, Friday, September 6, 2019. (AAP Image/Regi Varghese)

"Storms could bring dry lightning and a strike on the ground in these dry conditions is almost certainly going to start a fire that could potentially create another real problem that we could be battling into next week," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) regional manager for the southeast region Alan Gillespie said.

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecaster Kimba Wong said hot, dry conditions were expected to blanket the Hinterland with temperatures up to 8C higher than average in some parts.

"We are expecting it to be a very windy day … so warm and windy conditions is going to lead to the elevated fire dangers that we are expecting," she said.

 

But there is relief in sight, with tomorrow expected to bring cooler, less windy conditions.

The Hinterland bushfires are shaping up to be one of the region's longest, with the blaze still burning strong after more than two weeks.

Supt Gillespie said more than 7000 hectares of land had been lost, in a 70 kilometre perimeter.

"It's a very long-running fire for southeast Queensland, one of the longest we've had," he said.

Supt Gillespie praised the international firefighting efforts on the ground, with support streaming in from across Australia and even New Zealand.

He said crews had done an "extraordinary" job of keeping the fire burning within containment lines and expected to begin scaling down operations by the end of the week.

Total valley devastation at Sarabah on Monday, September 9, 2019 in the destructive southeast Queensland bush fires. Picture: Kirstin Payne
Total valley devastation at Sarabah on Monday, September 9, 2019 in the destructive southeast Queensland bush fires. Picture: Kirstin Payne

Supt Gillsepie told the Bulletin he would be "astounded" if the city escaped the fire season without more damage to the Hinterland.

"It's very unusual at this time of year to have a fire of this intensity - we're not even into summer yet," he said.

"It's the start of a very long protracted, hot fire season for Queensland."

Yesterday the fire, which began at Sarabah two weeks ago, was burning near Pyramid Creek in Lamington National Park, along with fire fronts in the Numbinbah Valley and Binna Burra, south of MacKenzie Rd.

Supt Gillespie said the area around Lamington National Park Rd was of particular concern because of the dense bushland.

"Some of the containment lines are quite weak, we're talking about walking tracks through the national park that can be pretty easily breached, so what we're doing is shoring up those lines," he said.

Conditions on the ground are expected to become more challenging today with a "very high" fire danger forecast across the southeast.

A local fire ban prohibiting the lighting of fires in the open is in place until midnight on Friday.

It comes as the state and federal government announced emergency joint funding for non-for-profit organisations in the Scenic Rim area yesterday.

Emergency hardship grants of up to $900 per family have also been announced by the state government.

A Community Recovery Hub remains open from 9am to 5pm at the Moriarty Park Community Sports Centre at Canungra to assist displaced residents.


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