Strong winds, high temperatures keep crews on alert
STRONG winds and high temperatures have tested exhausted firefighters battling more than 110 blazes across central Queensland throughout Sunday.
On Sunday night, more than 160 firefighting crews were battling the blazes, with bushfires at Deepwater and Eungella, in central Queensland, Tinnanbar, on the Fraser Coast, Karara, near Warwick in the state's south, and North Stradbroke Island of most concern.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said 527,000 hectares of land had been destroyed throughout Queensland, and he praised the outstanding efforts of firefighters and volunteers battling the flames in the fire-tarnished regions.
Residents in the Captain Creek area, west of Agnes Water, were told to prepare to leave on Sunday night as an unpredictable bushfire was moving southeast towards the region.
To the south, evacuated residents in the Winfield area, south of Baffle Creek, were advised they could return home on Sunday night as the Deepwater blaze no longer threatened their properties.
And further west, Lowmead residents were told the immediate threat to their homes had passed and they could return home to their rural community.
About 115 fires were still burning across Queensland last night with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warning the next 24 hours would be crucial for several blazes including one on Stradbroke Island that could spread to Russell Island in the early hours of this morning thanks to a forecast wind change.
Community meetings were held on Russell Island and Macleay Island yesterday and firefighters were stationed on Russell Island last night.Boats were also on standby.
Bureau of Meteorology Queensland manager Bruce Gunn said rain was expected on Tuesday in some parts of coastal Queensland including the Wide Bay, Burnett and the Central Coast and Whitsundays that would bring some relief from the heat.
But he too warned the wind change expected overnight at Stradbroke Island was of concern.
"Those winds are going to turn from the north all the way round into a southerly direction and be quite gusty," he said.
"We just have to be prepared for that."
He said predicted storms could also cause problems for fires burning in other parts of the state.
Queenslanders were yesterday urged to stay cool as the heatwave continued to grip the state, with 117 cases of heat related illness across the state since November 22.
Acting chief health officer Sonya Bennett said there had also been reports of snake bites in the state's north thanks to the heat and fires.
"The conditions really are unprecedented and over the next couple of days we can expect to see temperatures climb even further so we just wanted to stress to people to take precautions in the heat," Dr Bennett said.
A spokesman for the government said 35 aircraft had been operating across Queensland which is a record for any operation in QFES history.
About 24 waterbombing aircraft conducted 757 drops on fires yesterday, dropping a total of 1.5 million litres of suppressant (includes water, foam and gel).
One helicopter alone conducted 83 drops throughout the day and released 194,000 litres of water on the Deepwater and Captains Creek fires.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday toured the bushfire-affected areas around Eungella and Finch Hatton to see the scale of the damage, as crews continued to battle fires.
Mackay Regional Council mayor Greg Williamson said the fires in the region were "uncharted territory".
"We're not out of the woods yet," he said, adding today's forecast was a high risk of fire.
"It could flare up again at any stage.
"Right now we've got north-easterly winds … as long as they stay that will turn a lot of the fires back on themselves."