DUNMORE BLAZE: Western Downs blaze forced family to evacuate Dunmore home. Pic: Marc Stapelberg
DUNMORE BLAZE: Western Downs blaze forced family to evacuate Dunmore home. Pic: Marc Stapelberg

Western Downs blaze forced family to evacuate home

WATER bombers, fireys, and dozers have been working around the clock to contain an inferno that’s been burning for three days in Dunmore, threatening Western Downs residents’ homes, and forcing one family to evacuate.

Horrific fire conditions on Thursday, November 5, re-sparked a weeks old hazard reduction burn that had been carried out by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services at the Dunmore State Forest, decimating over 5000 hectares of bush and heavily timbered land.

Queensland Rural Fire Service regional manager Wayne Waltisbuhl said one family made the choice to leave as the blaze inched closer to their home on Thursday night.

“Rather than waiting until the last minute, these people made a very sound decision to leave early and move out to a place that was a lot safer for them, and that for us is a good call,” he said.

“I think having some local fire fighters there gave them a sense of security that their place would be looked after, it’s great that we have local people helping local residents protect their home.”

Mr Waltisbuhl said the fire had been incredibly difficult to battle, with air support struggling to find the head of the blaze when fire conditions peaked on Thursday.

“It was really bad fire weather and anything that we had out there certainly took hard runs that afternoon,” he said.

“We were able to manage it on the flanks and keep those contained, but the head fire was almost impossible to work on.

“We had water bombers dropping water on it but the wind made it really difficult, and we were even wondering if we had any effect on slowing it down when it was going that hard.”

When the fire seems almost impossible to battle, Mr Waltisbuhl said there comes a point in time when it’s safer to back off and prioritise the lives of the men and women on the ground.

“You don’t have options sometimes, especially (Thursday)… that would’ve been one of the things you just can’t control, we do lots of things to try, but at the same time we need to recognise what is achievable,” he said

“It was very difficult, it’s been in inaccessible country too, sometimes you can throw a lot of resources and effort into protecting a piece of bushland, and I say this respectfully to environmentalists, but when you’re struggling to even contain the fire, sometimes it’s better to stand back and watch, observe, and make sure we have no structures at threat, or people’s lives at risk and let it take its own course.”

Although the fire is still burning, Mr Waltisbuhl said the operation has been a success, as a number of agencies have been working together to fortify the containment lines, insuring no structures are destroyed.

“No one got hurt, members of the public or ourselves, we didn’t lose any structures or property, and we have a good containment line around it, so all in all when you have that kind of fire – I think it’s a pretty good outcome,” he said.

“We have so much faith and praise for the ground crews that do the hard yards physically, and the length of time they’re out there.

“The skill of our dozer operators, the skill of our pilots, and mapping people in aircrafts – we have a great array of different types of support that work together in a strategic operation.

“If we can continue to work as we are with no one getting hurt, protecting properties, and having a rapid and waited response to these events, we will minimise fires to the best of our ability so that everyone goes home at the end of the day safely - that’s our main aim.”

A Queensland Fire and Emergency spokesman said nine fire crews are currently on scene at the Dunmore blaze along with the parks department, who are carrying out backburning, and strengthening containment lines as air control continues to map and patrol the area.

The fire is burning in an inaccessible land between O’connor Road and Cecil Plains Moonie Road, although there is no threat to property, and minimal smoke - residents who suffer from respiratory conditions are advised to close windows, doors and keep medications close by.

Mr Waltisbuhl urged residents, and farmers stay vigilant, especially during extreme fire conditions.

“Complacency is something to be very aware of, we had some good rain and some people seem to think it’s all over, but dead grass is still dead grass and we will still get fires as bad days come along,” he warned.

“Wheat harvesting is a massive industry and farmers need to consider stopping harvesting during the hours of the day when fire danger is high to minimise the likelihood of machinery sparking and creating a fire.”

On Thursday two farmers on the Western Downs lost a proportion of their crops after sparks from their machinery had caused fires.

One farm was located near the intersection of Mathies Rd and Dalby-Cooyar Rd, the other in Jondaryan.

Queensland Fire and Emergency advice to Dunmore residents:

What you should do:

  • Listen to your local radio station or visit the Rural Fire Service (RFS) website for regular updates.
  • If you have a bushfire survival plan, refer to it now and be ready to follow it.
  • If you do not have a bushfire survival plan, or if your plan is to leave, identify where you will go if the situation changes.
  • Close windows and doors to minimise smoke exposure.
  • If you suffer from a respiratory condition, keep your medication close by.
  • Drive with caution in low visibility conditions.
  • Contact your neighbours to see if they need help preparing for the bushfire.
  • Consider finding your essential items (e.g., identification documents, prescription medication, food and water, and protective clothing such as a long-sleeved cotton shirt and trousers, and boots) in case you need to leave.
  • Consider what you will do to protect your pets and livestock.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Advise family and friends of your intended actions if the situation changes.

Keep up to date by:

  • Following QFES on Facebook (@QldFireandEmergencyServices) and Twitter (@QldFES)
  • Staying tuned to your local radio station. Find your local ABC radio station at https://radio.abc.net.au/help/offline and your local commercial radio station at http://www.commercialradio.com.au/find-a-station/queensland
  • Visiting the Rural Fire Service (RFS) website at www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/map

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