Tired crews brace for another heavy day


BRAVE and exhausted firefighters are bracing for another day of extreme fire conditions on the Darling Downs in a campaign expected to stretch for weeks.

The Pechey bushfire, just north of Toowoomba, is now a massive inferno measuring almost 15,000ha after tripling in size over the weekend.

On Tuesday night, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service issued prepare to leave notices for Ravensbourne, Cressbrook Creek and Crows Nest.

The blaze has blanketed the region in dense white smoke all the way to Gatton more than 30 kilometres away.

Firefighters surveying the scene at Ravensbourne. Picture: Annette Dew
Firefighters surveying the scene at Ravensbourne. Picture: Annette Dew

At its centre is the difficult and inaccessible terrain of state forests and national parks.

But seasoned firefighters have taken the fight into the forests to save lives and property.

Yesterday, they maintained a vigil along a road deep into Deongwar State Forest, near fire ravaged Ravensbourne, to prevent flames jumping into Ravensbourne National Park.

Looking more like a war time battlefield than a national park, firefighters risked giant blackened gum trees falling from the sky like mortar shells.

Residents in the surroundings areas - including Paul and Mary Fleming, who evacuated from their Crows Nest home on Monday - have been full of praise for the heroic men and women on the front line.

"The firies are doing a wonderful job but this wind you never know what the fire's going to do," Mary said.

The couple were yesterday planning on spending another night at the evacuation centre at the Crows Nest Showgrounds.

Mary and Paul Fleming at Crows Nest showgrounds after being evacuated. Picture: Annette Dew
Mary and Paul Fleming at Crows Nest showgrounds after being evacuated. Picture: Annette Dew

"At night time how do you know if an ember's going to come into your house while you're sleeping," Paul said yesterday.

Apprehension is high in the area after news that up to five homes were destroyed by the Pechey bushfire.

Two of those were in Ravensbourne including the home of Paul Mengel.

His sister Karen Burton has started an online fundraiser for Mr Mengel and other friends that lost their home.

"(They) lost everything when both their houses went up in the bush fire that started at Peachey a few days before.

"They have only the clothes they were wearing."

"A nearby Grapetree resident, who wouldn't give his name, is hoping his home doesn't fall to a similar fate as the fire comes perilously close to his property.

"It's been very stressful, the front was right on me yesterday," he said while showing The Courier-Mail embers that had landed on his property.

"It's been sleepless nights and I'm the only one here."

Part of this bushfires threat lies in its highly unstable behaviour.

QFES Inspector Mark Halverson said the bushfire was "travelling in many directions across many fronts".

"This fire has been extremely unpredictable from the start, and particularly over the last few days where we've had really, really extreme weather conditions," he said

"With the unpredictability of the terrain around here we're finding that wind direction can be accurate in one area, but not too far away, around a gully or a hill, the direction of the wind is completely different.

"We have flare ups in different areas and then we get a control there and there's another flare up in another area.

"It makes firefighting extremely difficult, and especially predicting (its) direction."