EXTRA firefighters are on standby across Queensland, ready to be deployed at a moments notice as the bushfire risk increases over the weekend.
Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said forecast strong winds combined with “bone dry grass and bushland” had resulted in a heightened threat.
Speaking in Townsville on Saturday morning, Mr Crawford said there were almost 30 bushfires already burning across the state.
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“Thankfully hard-working crews were able to contain a large, fast moving grass fire which threatened structures at Kingaroy yesterday afternoon,” Mr Crawford said.
“Extra crews remain on standby across the state, with the Bureau of Meteorology outlook indicating a very high fire danger for the next three days.
“Forecast wind gusts combining with warm weather and parched grass and bushland are expected to fuel fires – which we’ve seen spread very quickly.”
Mr Crawford said the bushfire season had arrived “about four to six weeks ahead of schedule” in Queensland.
He said 230 vegetation fires and exposures were reported across Queensland last weekend alone.
As a result of the increased fire risk this weekend, fire bans are in place in the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Somerset, Lockyer, Logan, Scenic Rim and Gold Coast local government areas.
The bans took effect at midnight on Wednesday and will remain in place until midnight Monday.
Permits to light fires were also suspended in Moreton Bay, Brisbane and Redland City local government areas from midnight Thursday and will remain in place until conditions improve.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll echoed Mr Crawford’s warning, saying firefighters were bracing for a challenging time over the coming days.
Ms Carroll said any bushfires that ignite this weekend will have the potential to spread rapidly.
“A very high fire danger will envelop most of the state this weekend and early next week, meaning any bushfires that ignite could spread rapidly and be difficult to control,” Ms Carroll said.
“We are facing strong wind gusts combining with warm weather and parched grass and bushland to fuel large fires.
“These conditions are like those that beset the south-east and south-west parts of the state last week, but this time it will be over a much broader area.”
Ms Carroll said QFES was taking preemptive measures to counter the heightened fire danger and said local fire bans and permit suspensions were in the interests of the community.
“Decisions to impose bans and suspend permits are not made lightly, but they are essential to protect people in bushfire-prone areas,” she said.
“It is vital people in these local government areas follow the requirements of the local fire bans and permit suspensions.
“We cannot chance a fire breaking out this weekend and early next week.”
Ms Carroll is urging everyone in Queensland to take steps to protect themselves and prevent bushfires starting.
“The smallest spark from welding, grinding, slashing and mowing is enough to start a fire this weekend and early next week, so anyone using power tools or machinery must be extra vigilant,” she said.
“The intense start to the 2018 bushfire season is also a timely reminder to everyone to have a Bushfire Survival Plan so they know what to do if a fire breaks out.
“Residents should ensure they clear any flammable debris from around the home.
“Given the forecast for the season ahead, it is a must that all Queenslanders do their bit now to prepare.”
Mr Crawford also encouraged everyone in the community to review and practice their Bushfire Survival Plan.
“It is vitally important to be prepared and people should have a Bushfire Survival Plan so they know what actions they would take if a bushfire were to threaten their home,” he said.