Residents flee southeast’s latest bushfire threat
FIREFIGHTERS were stretched to the limit as strong winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry conditions fanned flames, damaged at least one home and forced thousands of people to evacuate when fires came within kilometres of Brisbane's city centre.
Over the border in NSW, schools were closed and thousands were taken out of harm's way as dozens on bushfires burned across that state.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services battled multiple blazes stretching from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast.
On the Gold Coast at Beechmont, a large fire was travelling towards Hellfire Pass.
At 3.20am on Saturday, it was impacting North Road, Freemans Road and Outlook Avenue.
"Conditions are now very dangerous, and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing. The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path. Fire crews may not be able to protect your property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door. Act now,'' a fire advice issued said.
"Power, water, and mobile phone service may be lost, and road conditions may become very dangerous over the next several hours.
"People leaving the area can evacuate in a southerly direction via North Road onto Beachmont Road towards Nerang.
"An evacuation centre has been set up at Nerang Bicentennial Community Centre at 833 Southport Nerang Road."
Earlier, police made an emergency declaration under the Public Safety Preservation Act due to the dangerous bushfire burning out of control at Lower Beechmont.
The exclusion zone is bound by Nerang Murwillumba Road to the east, Armitage Creek to the west, the intersection of Beechmont Road and Mirani Street to the south and the intersection of Beechmont Road and Nerang Murwillumbah Road to the north.
Last night a fire burning out of control at Cooroibah on the Sunshine Coast forced authorities to evacuate nearby Tewantin.
There were reports at least one home had been damaged.
Further west in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, residents were last night evacuated from Jimna as a fire front bore down on the small town surrounded by rugged bushland.
Residents were last night sheltering in nearby Kilcoy hoping no homes would be lost.
Even suburban Brisbane wasn't spared from the fire emergency, with a suspicious blaze threatening homes in the western suburb of The Gap.
Ashgrove Station Officer Antony Flint said The Gap fire blazed for nearly two hours, and at times had firefighters "stretched to the limit".
He said the fire could have been deliberately lit.
The Gap residents were fighting to protect their homes, using garden hoses, he said.
Local resident Jim Parsonage said he was shocked to see the fire so close to his home on Birkridge Place, having never seen anything like it in the area.
"I could smell smoke, it was very thick smoke, it was a scrub fire and then it just accelerated," he said.
"It was very severe, everyone was out in their yards trying to see if it was going to spread."
A similar story also unfolded in Buccan, south of Brisbane, where residents were force to deal with two fire emergencies yesterday in the space of about three hours.
Hundreds of residents were told to leave their properties for about two hours while firefighters dealt with a bushfire along Buccan Rd.
At the same time firefighters and police were called about a kilometre away to Wilson Rd where a house fire had been suspiciously lit.
One resident on Wilson Rd described the situation as "crazy".
"We've got a bushfire over there and a house fire here and we don't know whether to evacuate or not," the resident said.
Evacuation warnings were also in place for residents in the Lockyer Valley, where out-of-control blazes are still burning south of parched Laidley and Tarome.
Residents of Lower Beechmont in the Gold Coast hinterland were also told to evacuate last night.