Noosa fire under control

Noosa fire under control

7 October 2008

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Australia — Emergency services are reporting that a large grass fire at Noosa is under control.

About 900ha of scrub has been burnt out since yesterday but it understood no homes have been damaged.

Earlier today, smoke haze led police to close roads in the area.

Authorities closed the eastern end of Eenie Creek Road and Cooyar Street near Noosa Junction.

Sunshine Coast police acting Superintendent Keith Schultz said authorities had been given information to suggest the fire was deliberately lit.

Supt Scultz also asked drivers to use caution if they were driving through the area.

Fire bombing helicopters were deployed this morning as fire crews fought to control large blazes between the Sunrise Beach, Marcus Beach and Lake Weyba areas.

Crews were also sent from Brisbane to reinforce more than 100 firefighters who spent the night battling the blazes in and around Noosa National Park.

An estimated 500 houses in the area were under threat by the blaze last night, a spokeswoman for the Department of Emergency Services said this morning.

At the height of the fire, 10 urban trucks, 11 rural brigades and several National Parks’ fire trucks were employed to battle the blaze.

Homeowners armed with garden hoses were fighting a desperate battle last night to protect their properties as a wall of flames tore through the bushland.

The fire broke out in scrub behind the Sunrise shops and, fanned by strong winds, it quickly turned into an inferno.

Witnesses told police they saw teenagers in school uniform running from the area shortly before a shopkeeper discovered one small grass fire about 3pm.

A second blaze was soon discovered about 200m further into the bush towards Burgess Creek.

Police earlier this year identified the area as a hangout for youths involved in drug use and responsible for vandalism at the nearby shops.

When fire crews arrived the second blaze had become a fierce front, moving rapidly south through dry scrub close to the Sunrise Beach Uniting Church at Grass Tree Court.

Fire crews attempted to establish a fire break but strong northerly winds pushed the fire along a front through the national park, jumping the fire breaks faster than they could be put in place.

Five urban fire crews, three rural crews and a National Parks and Wildlife unit fought the flames, which by 5pm had cut a swathe through bushland nearly 3km long.

Crews concentrated on protecting the church and pastor’s residence as flames came within metres.

By dusk, residents of Columbia Drive were busy wetting down houses and hoping the wind did not change as the fire crept up the hillside, spreading out from the main front towards their properties.

Homeowners further south at Castaways Beach were not so lucky, sitting directly in the path of the fire as it rushed toward them, filling the streets with smoke and ash.

Fire crews leap-frogged from street to street, fighting a running battle to protect homes as the wall of flames encroached on houses at the end of Comet Drive, Stardust Court, Hawley Court and Sundown Court.

Sundown Court resident Toni Valencour and her sons were busy keeping their house wet and trying to remain calm as the flames leapt higher than the back fence.

“This is the third year,” she said. “We know what to expect but it’s scary.”

Fire crews evacuated families at the end of Hawley Court when flames, some higher than the houses, scorched fences and trees in backyards and plumes of smoke painted the sky grey.

“I thought the house was going to burn down,” Hawley Court resident Philppa Verness said.

“This has happened before but I don’t remember it being that intense.”

Moments before, flames had leapt metres into the air above Hawley Court houses, sending families running to protect one home whose owners were away.

A mother clutching her child was close to tears when it appeared flames were about to consume a neighbour’s house.

Further down the street, residents gathered on front lawns to watch the red-orange glow in the sky.

The blaze comes just days afterfirefighters worked for five hours to bring a bushfire at Bald Knob near Maleny under control.

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