Hinterland residents flee after threatened by more fires
HINTERLAND residents have fled to the Gold Coast or Brisbane because they're too scared to stay home and face the ongoing bushfire threat licking at the region.
Others are so anxious they have holed up and will not even leave to go shopping, say those in the Lower Beechmont community yesterday.
The community, which lost a string of homes and historic Binna Burra Lodge in September's savage bushfire, is on edge as firefighters and Defence Force staff fight unprecedented blazes across NSW and Queensland.
Last night, 85 fires were burning in NSW where three people have been killed and 150 homes lost. Across Queensland, more than 1000 personnel were fighting a further 55 fires.
Gold Coast Hinterlands residents have been bracing for a September repeat, preparing as best they can if a change in wind direction or speed leads to the widespread NSW destruction seen in recent days.
On Saturday morning, a fire at Lower Beechmont came within metres of homes on North Road, but firefighters managed to beat back the flames.
Andrew Catlow, part owner of The Nook and Kranny Cafe at Beechmont, said townspeople were "more than anxious", but "sticking together".
"A lot of residents are coming in just for somewhere to talk. The fire was right on their houses, so they've come in to just get it out," he said.
"We've got people staying in Brisbane, staying on the Gold Coast because they're just too scared to stay at home. Some people don't want to leave (to shop) because they're so worried something will happen.".
North Rd resident Zoe Cullen, who works at the cafe, wiped tears from her eyes.
"Everyone up here is just so conscious of the environment and that's why it's so devastating to us," she said.
"Driving through North Rd makes me feel sick. We were so damn lucky. Seeing the effort put in by the firefighters and everyone, oh, I'm going to cry if I talk about it."
Beechmont Mountain Sales property manager Gareth Thomas said the region was "by far" the driest he had seen it in his 17 years living in the area.
"It's unusual. It's never burnt like this before. The dryness is a shock. We're not getting the rain we normally get, the storms haven't come. Everything is just so tinder dry," he said.
"A lot of tenants went to Brisbane or Gold Coast on Friday when they knew things were heating up."
Firefighters have been preparing for worsening conditions, including any change in wind direction, a QFES spokesman said.
"The weather is definitely on everyone's radar," he said.
"Wind, weather - it's obviously challenging conditions and it'll be the same tomorrow.
"They have so many people on the ground monitoring and patrolling because they know the conditions are going to be bad."
Rural Fire Service divisional commander and Highland Park resident Peter Gurney has been working in the hinterland since September.
He said the Lower Beechmont fire was burning easterly "within pre-identified containment lines" yesterday afternoon, to the west of North Rd, Freemans Rd and Outlook Ave.
"The Sarabah fire was a very dynamic situation It was fast moving, but with this one, they've managed to establish containment lines pretty quickly and keep the fire within those containment lines," he said.
"We are looking at increased winds over the next couple of days, increased temperatures and lower humidity - that is a concern. But we are resourcing appropriately for that."
About 35 firefighters and 11 trucks have been tasked to the blaze, assisted by several dozen members of the Australian Defence Force.
Backburning and heavy machinery were being used and a waterbombed was on standby.
Mayor Tom Tate said Gold Coast City Council was readying for the "worst scenario" today should the wind direction change.
"I feel we'll be able to detain it but Mother Nature will be the main dictator of this issue," he said.
The good part is we have been advised that by around Saturday potentially we may have some rain."
Temperatures could reach up to 28 degrees in the region today, accompanied by winds of up to 40kmh, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Humidity will be as low as 39 per cent and fire danger has been rated as severe.