ANIMALS AT RISK: Rural fire fighter and voluntary community educator Colleen King with her farm animals.
ANIMALS AT RISK: Rural fire fighter and voluntary community educator Colleen King with her farm animals. Allan Reinikka ROK291118acolleen

The Caves residents on tenterhooks with bushfires menacing

STANDING in the backyard of a property at The Caves, looking up towards the smoking surrounding hills, Colleen King said these were the worst fires she's seen.

Self described to be a "bit long in the tooth” to be a rural firefighter, Ms King, 61, has battled fires for two decades but said she's never seen a day like Wednesday's "catastrophic” fire conditions.

"We've had some rough ones when I was in Townsville but this would have to be worst I've ever seen,” Ms King said.

"The whole day it was quite unnerving, to see all that smoke and all those fires, especially with all those people evacuated from Gracemere.”

Reflecting on the drama of the previous evening, Ms King said it was a "bit scary” and she was worried when she saw flames a hundred feet high cresting the top of the hill, bearing down on her daughter's property.

Rural fire fighter and voluntary community educator Colleen King.
BUSHFIRE READY: Rural fire fighter and voluntary community educator Colleen King. Allan Reinikka ROK291118acolleen

"I know my daughter was quite upset but I have a lot of faith in our Senior Ranger Scott Brook,” she said.

"I've done fires with him for years now and I'm 100 per cent confident in his judgment that we would be protected,” Ms King said.

"I also know how the Rural Fires operate, we had a fire break around our place, the grader came in and put an extra fire break around our original fire break.”

READ: Behind the scenes of The Caves Fitzroy Rural Fire Brigade

In the end, the situation could have been a lot worse for The Caves if the wind hadn't been blowing in a favourable direction.

No sooner had Ms King caught her breath yesterday than the fire dramas kicked off again with the hot weather and gusty winds whipping up the intensity of the smouldering fires. Just after lunchtime, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) ordered residents to leave The Caves area before lowering the alert an hour later to "prepare to leave”.

Speaking with The Morning Bulletin yesterday afternoon, Ms King took time out from frantically applying water to her house and yard to note that there were two fires burning to the west and east, which were threatening The Caves area, but still a considerable distance away.

She said her cars were packed, ready to go, but they would stick around for a while to see how it played out.

CAVES UPDATE: The Caves have weathered Wednesday's bushfires but are on high alert again today.
CAVES UPDATE: The Caves were still burning on Thursday morning. Leighton Smith

"We'll be right,” she said confidently.

The plan (which was subject to change) was for Ms King to join a firefighting contingent headed towards Blackdown Tablelands National Park last night to see what had happened with a fire which had burnt its way across the range and had been regarded as "too dangerous to keep fighting”.