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Painful sight: Palaszczuk orders Fraser Island bushfire review


The Queensland Government has ordered a full review of a bushfire that has burned through tens of thousands of hectares of the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, as the public tries to help find the culprits who lit the campfire that sparked the emergency.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has directed the state’s Inspector General for Emergency Management, Alistair Dawson, to examine all aspects of the preparedness and response to the blaze.

The bushfire started burning in mid-October and is believed to have been sparked by an illegal campfire.

It has now burned through at least 80,000 hectares, or 50 per cent, of the island, known as “K’gari”.

Residents and staff at Kingfisher Bay Resort and its neighbouring village have been told to prepare to leave as the fire travels from Boon Boon Creek south towards the resort.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said extensive water bombing on Tuesday was effective in slowing the spread of the fire, and they will continue water bombing throughout Wednesday.

In Parliament, Palaszczuk said more than 1 million litres of water had been dumped on the flames.

“K’gari is beloved not just here but all around the world, which makes the sight of it’s burning so painful,” she said.

“It’s understandable those who love the island want to be assured that everything that could be done to protect it has and is being done.

“That’s why I can confirm that the Inspector General Emergency Management has been instructed to conduct a full review.

“There are extreme heatwave conditions today, predicted this week, and will further test our men and women on the frontline doing everything they can to contain this fire.”

Palaszczuk said planned hazard mitigation burns reached an average of 13,000 hectares a year — more than recommended.

The Department of Environment, which oversees the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, have not identified the person or people who lit the illegal campfire yet.

But the Department said the public had been “generous in sharing information” to help track them down.

Local tourism operators have raised concerns about the management of the fire, wondering if more could have been done to get on top of it sooner.

The fire response was being led by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) until last week, when QFES took over.

The Department of Environment and Science said the ability to deploy and the effectiveness of waterbombing is dictated by weather conditions, smoke presence, assets under risk and vegetation type.

In a statement, a spokesperson said QPWS made use of a large aerial tanker several times when conditions were deemed suitable — including on November 17 and 22.

They said other aerial waterbombing craft were used at other times, including bucket drops via helicopter.

“It is important to note that aircraft are not used to put out fires, but instead to slow the fire down, reduce its intensity and/or strategically steer the fire around assets, in support of ground crew,” the statement said.

“Significant resources are being used to support ongoing firefighting operations, including more than 75 personnel on the ground and 30 appliances along with aerial support.

“QPWS and QFES have been working together to tackle the fire on K’gari, and naturally there has been strong collaboration about logistics and tactics.”

– ABC / Emilie Gramenz

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