Clint Yarrow captured this image in Gracemere during the December 2018 bushfires.
Clint Yarrow captured this image in Gracemere during the December 2018 bushfires. Clint Yarrow

Lessons learned from Gracemere bushfires

AUTHORITIES say lessons learned from the major bushfire event which led to the rapid evacuation of Gracemere, Kabra and Stanwell last December will stand them in good stead for future natural disasters.

On top of independent reviews, which endorsed Queensland's handling of the 2018 bushfires and 2019 north Queensland floods, it has been revealed that the state's primary fire authority undertook its own review post-Gracemere.

"I think it's fair to say that communities and ourselves as individuals and as teams, always learn something,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services acting commissioner Michael Wassing said.

"Whether it be a small fire or in this case (Gracemere) a series of large bushfires protracted over a long period of time.

"We'll always be learning, we want to be the best that we can be, and that's why we (post-Gracemere) did an internal assessment in terms of what we did well, and what we need to look at in terms of improving.”

December's bushfire event at Gracemere, Kabra and Stanwell amid extreme weather conditions saw a "catastrophic fire danger” declared and 8000 residents evacuated as a fast-moving fire headed towards the townships.

The predicted path of the Stanwell fire that forced the evacuation of over 8000 people from Kabra, Gracemere and the surrounding areas. The state government released this image, which was made using predictive technology to show the potential path of the fire.
UNPRECEDENTED: The predicted path of the Stanwell fire that forced the evacuation of over 8000 people from Kabra, Gracemere and the surrounding areas. The State Government released this image, which was made using predictive technology, to show the potential path of the fire. Queensland Government

Mr Wassing said the QFES internal review findings would be integrated with recommendations from the Inspector-General's report to improve the future handling of natural disasters.

He stressed there were significant positives to come out of December's bushfires.

"Gracemere was an extraordinary event,” he said.

"One of the key lessons, and the Inspector-General points to this in his review, is that Queensland isn't always used to large fires that we saw last year.

"What you see in fires of the nature of what we saw last year, is they're fast, there's high tempo in the operations, and things change really, really quickly - that's what we saw in Gracemere.

"The real significance of that fire was the fact that we had a very quick response in terms of the (fire-fighting) aircraft and fire crews, and really importantly, a quick response from the local community.

"Obviously we did a lot of evacuations.

"(Residents) listened to our warnings, they listened to the emergency alerts that we put out there, they did what we asked, and then they came back when it was safe.”

QFES has a national contract for fire-fighting aircraft but also has the ability to call in higher calibre reinforcements.

Laken Wells sent in this photo of a sunrise in Gracemere.
Laken Wells sent in this photo of a sunrise in Gracemere during the December 2018 bushfires. Laken Wells

"We don't normally contract (Boeing) 737s and the large air tankers that you saw last year, but that doesn't mean that we don't have access to those,” Mr Wassing said.

"We have really strong interstate arrangements where we can bring in those large air tankers if we have the need.

"We typically don't have the fires of those magnitudes.

"Last year with the Gracemere fires, the large air tanker was certainly very beneficial for our fire-fighters on the ground in terms of containing that fire.”

Mr Wassing said ultimately it was the fire crews on the ground, supported by other authorities, emergency service workers and the council, that ensured there were no major injuries or fatalities from the Gracemere event.