AS IT HAPPENED: Fire threatens Crows Nest, homes feared lost

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Residents in the south eastern side of Crows Nest have been asked to leave their homes due to a fast-moving bushfire
  • That warning includes residents in Tin Mine Rd, Three Mile Rd (between Tin Mine Rd and Dingo Rd), Orchard Rd, Pinnell Rd, Grapetree Rd and Perseverance Dam Rd
  • Evacuate in a north-westerly direction using the New England Highway towards Crows Nest
  • The Churches of Christ Aged Care facility in Crows Nest has also been evacuated
  • Prepare to leave warnings have also been issued in surrounding areas, including Cressbrook Creek, Ravensbourne and Redbank Creek
  • An evacuation centre has been opened at the Crows Nest Showgrounds
  • Crows Nest State School will remain closed tomorrow
  • Firefighters are expecting conditions to ease overnight and will be conducting back burning operations
  • Toowoomba residents have been asked to conserve water after power was cut to pumps at Cressbrook Dam

FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES BELOW

UPDATE, 7.15PM: Weather conditions are expected to ease tonight, giving a much-needed reprieve for firefighters who have mounted an exhausting effort to contain a bushfire bearing down on Crows Nest.

Rural Fire Service Acting Inspector John Welke said predicted fire behaviour this morning saw the blaze take "a rather intense however relatively slow-moving run east" towards Crows Nest.

A number of firefighters had suffered injuries associated with the bushfire incident he said, but "all of those limited number of injuries" and the personnel had been "attended to quickly and swiftly".

They are expected to make full recoveries.

The briefing capped off a busy day for firefighters which saw the total bushfire zone grow by about 2000 hectares to 14,000 hectares, and triggered emergency warning messages to be activated for part of Crows Nest.

Those warnings were being reviewed by QFES, Acting Inspector Welke said.

Acting Inspector Welke said conditions had "eased significantly" for firefighters as evening fell.

"We're expecting the fire intensity in that area to decrease significantly tonight," he said.

He said firefighters would take the opportunity during the eased conditions to conduct back-burning operations in several problem areas with the intention of folding the fire back into itself and reducing the fuel load.

Eased conditions were expected in the morning and into tomorrow.

Crews will spend the night on a 4km fire-front back-burning.

"Crews will be undertaking that into the evening and that will be quite visible to residents in that area," he said, referencing the Williams Rd and general area.

"You will see some increasing fire activity in that area but our crews are conducting that back burning."

But residents should not become complacent with regards to the potential risk of the bushfire.

Acting Inspector Welke said the extensive fleet of aerial water-bombers would continue operating in the area as well as an increased presence of firefighters on the ground ensuring back-burning operations were controlled.

Protecting critical infrastructure and life preservation would remain key priorities for the more than 150 firefighters on the ground tomorrow.

Acting Inspector Welke said crews had been unable to confirm reports of property loss due to the dangerous conditions of the bushfire and risk of trees falling.

"As conditions ease and continue to ease in those areas, we will be able to get in there and assess any potential loss of property in the coming days," he said.

"Once that information is known, we will be providing that information to the communities and the property owners.

"Today was not quite as challenging as... yesterday."

MONDAY, 6.30PM: Five homes are feared lost by a large bushfire which continues to advance on Crows Nest where residents on the south-eastern fringes have been told to leave.

Prepare to leave messages are current for residents within an area that extends from the southern side of Perseverance Dam Rd and Cressbrook Dam, to Brennan Rd, Garvey Rd, Purtill Rd, McQuillan Rd and Esk Hampton Rd.

Another prepare to leave message is current for residents which in the Redbank Creek and Deongwar State Forest areas, with QFES advising the fire may impact Oaky Mill Rd, Cressbrook Creek Rd and areas in the vicinity of Esk Hampton Rd, between Brennan Rd and Brough Court including Kipper Creek Rd and Regent Rd.

An information session is due to start at 6.30pm at the Crows Nest RSL to update residents on the situation.

QFES Acting Assistant Commissioner Mike Wassing, at a briefing in Brisbane this afternoon, said reports of five remote homes being lost to the bushfire were unable to be confirmed due to the dangerous nature of the fire.

It is understood a special taskforce is on standby to protect homes if the fire reaches the community, with the southern edges most at risk at the moment. 

"The winds are erratic. There are homes potentially still under threat this evening, that is absolutely the case," he said.

"It is a really difficult fire."

MONDAY, 5.45PM: A prepare to leave message is active for residents in the vicinity of several streets in Crows Nest, current as of 5.20pm.

This prepare to leave message is for residents north-west of Perseverance Dam Road including Cressbrook Dam, Sebastapool Road, Three Mile Road (west of Dingo Street), Dahl Road, Creek Street, Dale Street North and South, Jones Street, Church Road, Esk Street, William Street, Charles Street, Albert Street, South Street, Blinco Road, Dingo Road and surrounding streets.

The fire is likely to impact these areas.

Fire crews, with support from aerial operations, are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property.

You should not expect a firefighter at your door.

An evacuation centre is open at the Crows Nest Showgrounds, New England Highway near Showgrounds Terrace.

There will be a community meeting held at Crows Nest RSL Community Hall, 28-30 William Street, at 6.30pm where residents can learn the latest information about this fire.
 

A pyrocumulus cloud or fire cloud, caused by the Pechey fire, as seen on Sunday evening. Contributed by Andrew Churchward.
A pyrocumulus cloud or fire cloud, caused by the Pechey fire, as seen on Sunday evening. Contributed by Andrew Churchward. Andrew Churchward

5.25PM: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services advises there is a bushfire approaching the south-eastern side of Crows Nest.

Leaving immediately is the safest option, as it will soon be too dangerous to drive.

Follow your bushfire survival plan now. If you do not have a plan, your safest option is to leave immediately if it is clear to do so.

If you cannot leave, identify where you will seek shelter from the bushfire. If you are not in the area, do not return, as conditions are too dangerous.

Currently as at 5.15pm Monday, November 18, an unpredictable and very large fire continues to burn in Ravensbourne and is travelling towards Crows Nest.

It is expected to impact the south-eastern side of Crows Nest in the coming hours. The fire is expected to have a significant impact on the community.

This leave immediately warning is for residents on and in the vicinity of Tin Mine Road, Three Mile Road (between Tin Mine Road and Dingo Road), Orchard Road, Pinnell Road, Grapetree Road and Perseverance Dam Road.

Residents in these areas should evacuate in a north-westerly direction using the New England Highway towards Crows Nest.

Residents living in Crows Nest who are not residents of these streets should refer to the Cressbrook Creek and parts of Crows Nest warning. 

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.
Power, water, and mobile phone service may be lost and road conditions may become very dangerous over the next several hours.

People in the area will be affected by smoke, which will reduce visibility and air quality.

An evacuation centre is open at the Crows Nest Showgrounds, New England Highway near Showgrounds Terrace.

There will be a community meeting held at Crows Nest RSL Community Hall, 28-30 William Street, at 6.30pm where residents can learn the latest information about this fire.


 

5PM: The Churches of Christ Aged Care facility in Crows Nest has been evacuated due to the bushfire threat.

Residents are being transported to St Vincent's Private Hospital Toowoomba.

The hospital, in a post to its Facebook about 4.45pm Monday, advised residents would be arriving in Toowoomba shortly.

Family were advised to phone the hospital on 4690 4000.

MONDAY, 4PM: The Queensland Fire and Emergency services has issued more prepare to leave notices for residents in Ravensbourne and Redbank Creek.

Currently as at 4pm, an unpredictable fire continues to burn on multiple fronts in the Deongwar State Forest and Redbank Creek areas. The fire is likely to impact Oaky Mill Road, Cressbrook Creek Road and areas in the vicinity of Esk Hampton Road, between Brennan Road and Brough Court including Kipper Creek Road and Regent Road.

At 3.55pm Monday 18 November, an unpredictable fire continues to burn in Ravensbourne.

This prepare to leave message is for residents within an area that extends from the southern side of Perseverance Dam Road and Cressbrook Dam, to Brennan Road, Garvey Road, Purtill Road, McQuillan Road and Esk Hampton Road. The fire is likely to impact these areas.

MONDAY, 3.30PM: Residents on the south eastern side of Crows Nest should leave their home now.

Currently at 3.15pm, an unpredictable and very large fire continues to burn in Ravensbourne and is travelling towards Crows Nest.

It is expected to impact the south-eastern side of Crows Nest in the coming hours.

The fire is expected to have a significant impact on the community. 

Leaving immediately is the safest option, as it will soon be too dangerous to drive.

This leave immediately warning is for residents on and in the vicinity of Tin Mine Rd, Three Mile Rd (between Tin Mine Rd and Dingo Rd), Orchard Rd, Pinnell Rd, Grapetree Rd and Perseverance Dam Rd. 

Current burn map for the Pechey, Hampton, Ravensbourne, Crows Nest area as at 3pm 18th November.
Current burn map for the Pechey, Hampton, Ravensbourne, Crows Nest area as at 3pm 18th November. Contributed


Residents in these areas should evacuate in a north-westerly direction using the New England Highway towards Crows Nest. 

Residents living in Crows Nest who are not residents of these streets should refer to the Cressbrook Creek and parts of Crows Nest warning.  

Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing.

An evacuation centre is open at the Crows Nest Showgrounds, New England Highway near Showgrounds Terrace.

There will be a community meeting held at Crows Nest RSL Community Hall, 28-30 William Street, at 6.30pm where residents can learn the latest information about this fire.

MONDAY, 3.20PM: Crows Nest and Cressbrook Creek residents are warned to keep an eye on a rapidly advancing fire.

Currently as at 3.20pm Monday 18 November, an unpredictable and very large fire continues to burn in Ravensbourne and travel towards the community of Crows Nest. 

This prepare to leave message is for residents north-west of Perseverance Dam Rd including Cressbrook Dam, Sebastapool Rd, Three Mile Rd (west of Dingo St), Dahl Rd, Creek St, Dale St North and South, Jones St, Church Rd, Esk St, William St, Charles St, Albert St, South St, Blinco Rd, Dingo Rd and surrounding streets.

The fire is likely to impact these areas.

MONDAY, 2.20PM: The Somerset Regional Council has established an Incident Management Team as the bushfire situation marches towards the east.

Mayor Graham Lehmann said Esk State School remained closed to the fire while the council has received anecdotal reports of lost structures.

Esk Hospital self-evacuated six patients to Gatton on Sunday, but re-opened on Monday morning.

"Council has received reports of structures lost to the fire around the Redbank Creek area, and we are working to confirm these," Cr Lehmann said in a statement this morning.

"We have established an Incident Management Team which is monitoring the situation from Esk."

A Somerset Council spokesman this afternoon told The Chronicle reports of lost structures were yet to be confirmed due to the dangerous conditions of the fire and inaccessibility in the area.

Cr Lehmann thanked community members for looking out for one another.

MONDAY, 1.40PM: Crows Nest State School students have been sent home from school this afternoon as a fire continues to threaten the town. 

"Crows Nest State School will be closing early today, Monday, November 18 and remain closed for Tuesday, November 19 due to the ongoing threat from local bushfires," an emergency text message sent to parents read.

"As part of our disaster management protocol, we follow the advice of emergency services in making these decisions and will always act in the interests of the safety of students, staff and the wider school community.

"Following discussions with QFES a decision has been made as a precautionary measure to close the school early this afternoon and remain closed for Tuesday, November 19.

"This decision has not been taken lightly and is based on an assessment of the current conditions and risks associated with movement around fire-affected communities."

The school has also cancelled its awards evening which was scheduled to be held tonight. 

"Parents and Carers are also advised that early collection of students is requested, where possible, to limit the movement of the public in and around the township as there is potential for conditions to worsen in the area over the remainder of today and into the evening," a second text message read.

"Parents and Carers are advised that arrangements are underway for bus services to attend the school early to collect students and return them home. Please do not hesitate to contact the school if you have any questions.

Heritage Bank has also confirmed it has closed its Crows Nest branch due to the fire threat.

"We are temporarily closing our Crows Nest branch due to a bushfire closing in on the town," the bank posted on Facebook.

"Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has issued the instructions to prepare to leave, and to ensure the safety of our customers and staff, we are listening to that advice.

"We will advise when our Crows Nest branch is reopened. Stay safe."

The Chronicle understands the Crows Nest Childrens Centre is also in the process of closing due to the fire. 

The Toowoomba Regional Council has closed the Ravensbourne Waste Facility due to the bushfire risk.

"Residents are advised to please visit the nearby Kleinton Waste Facility as an alternative until further notice," a TRC spokesman said.

The council has also called on Toowoomba residents to conserve water after fire cut power to the Cressbrook Dam pump. 

Prepare to leave notices remain in place for Crows Nest, Cressbrook Creek, Ravensbourne and Redbank Creek. 

MONDAY, 12.10PM: Firefighters have saved several properties under direct threat from a bushfire which more than tripled in size in one night.

Hundreds of firefighters yesterday and into the night worked shoulder to shoulder protecting structures which came under threat from the blaze along Perseverance Dam Rd near Crows Nest.

Rural Fire Service Acting Inspector John Welke said many of those structures were able to be saved with crews to return today for a full damage assessment.

It was an horrifically challenging day for the more than 220 crews battling to contain the bushfire which went from 4000 hectares to 13,000 hectares throughout Sunday and last night.

Acting Inspector Welke said crews were today working to cut and bolster containment lines as the bushfire bears down on Crows Nest due to a change in wind direction.

Fire mapping on Saturday night showed about 4000 hectares had been burned since it began on November 12, with mapping as at 9am Monday revealing it now measured in excess of 13,000 hectares.

"I make no bones about the reality of this fire," Acting Inspector Welke said

"We will all be dealing with this in one way, shape or form for coming days."

The fire on Sunday broke containment lines, and has so far torn through the Pechey forestry area towards the Esk township.

The Esk Hospital self-evacuated about six patients on Sunday as a precaution.

Acting Inspector Welke said the fire was likely to impact the outskirts of the Esk township in coming days.

Crews, he said, would today work in the area north of Cressbrook Dam itself to contain the fire, using heavy plant equipment to construct containment lines off Three Mile Rd, Perseverance Rd and Orchard Rd.

Despite the cooler temperatures and slight increase in moisture in the atmosphere, Acting Inspector Welke said crews were not confident they would be able to hold the fire to the Tin Mile Rd area.

He said predicted modelling suggested the township of Crows Nest could be at risk this afternoon and tonight.

"(The town's outskirts) may experience some ember attack from about 4pm onwards," he said.

"I don't mean to cause alarm but it is likely to see spotting in the area.

"We do have some slightly cooler weather conditions and we do have some slightly increase moisture in the air.

"It has turned the tables on us and it's going to give Crows Nest a run for its money this evening and into the night."

In acknowledging the emotional toll the bushfire situation had on residents, Acting Inspector Welke said it was critical people follow all advice from emergency services.

He said bushfire survival plans should be in place and residents ready to act on them as hundreds of firefighters continue to work around the clock to contain the bushfire.

"(We have) in excess of 220 firefighters, made up of extensively local Rural Fire Service, Queensland Parks and Wildlife, Toowoomba Regional Council fire rangers, we have firefighters from Cairns, and from Western Australia.

"This is a very large effort that has been mounted to try and contain, at this stage, and combat this fire," he said.

MONDAY, 11.15AM: The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services say an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn in Ravensbourne and conditions could get worse.

Prepare to leave warnings have been issued for Ravensbourne, Cressbrook Creek, Crows Nest and Redbank Creek, while a stay informed warning has been issued for Esk. 

Current Warnings: 

  • PREPARE TO LEAVE: Ravensbourne: Currently as at 10.50am, an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn in Ravensbourne. This prepare to leave message is for residents within an area that extends from the southern side of Perseverance Dam Road and Cressbrook Dam, to Brennan Road, Garvey Road, Purtill Road, McQuillan Road and Esk Hampton Road. The fire is likely to impact these areas. Fire crews are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door. Those who had evacuated are advised it is now safe to return, however this could change quickly and those who return should be prepared to leave. An evacuation centre is open at the Crows Nest Showgrounds, New England Highway near Showgrounds Terrace.
  • PREPARE TO LEAVE: Cressbrook Creek and Crows Nest: Currently as at 10.45am, an unpredictable and very large fire is continuing to burn in Ravensbourne and travel towards the community of Crows Nest. This prepare to leave message is for residents north-west of Perseverance Dam Road including Cressbrook Dam, Perseverance Dam Road, Sebastapool Road, Three Mile Road, Dahl Road, Creek Street, Dale Street North and South, Jones Street, Church Road, Esk Street, William Street, Charles Street, Albert Street, South Street, Blinco Road and surrounding streets. The fire is likely to impact these areas.
  • PREPARE TO LEAVE: Redbank Creek: Currently as at 10.15am, an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn on multiple fronts in the Deongwar State Forest and Redbank Creek areas. The fire is likely to impact Oaky Mill Road, Cressbrook Creek Road and areas in the vicinity of Esk Hampton Road, between Brennan Road and Brough Court including Kipper Creek Road and Regent Road.
  • STAY INFORMED: Esk: Currently as at 10.10am, an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn in the Deongwar State Forest and Redbank Creek areas. Properties in Esk are not under direct threat at this time. Call Triple Zero (000) immediately if you believe you or your property is under threat.
Areas impacted by the Pechey fire.
Areas impacted by the Pechey fire. QFES,

MONDAY, 9AM: A community information meeting will be held in Crows Nest this morning to update residents on the bushfire situation.

The meeting, to be held at the Indoor Sports Centre at the Crows Nest Showgrounds, will be held at 11am.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast east to north-easterly winds of 20km/h to 30km/h for the Darling Downs today, with maximum daytime temperatures to reach the low to mid 30s.

A very high fire danger rating remains in place for the region.

The Esk Hospital yesterday afternoon made the decision to evacuate patients as a bushfire on Esk Hampton Rd travelled in the direction of the hospital, which is about 20km away from the fire.

The blaze, which is part of the Pechey bushfire, is one of more than 70 fires burning across the state.

MONDAY, 6.20AM: A FIRE threatening a number of Toowoomba region and Somerset locations has been downgraded from Emergency to Watch and Act level overnight, but conditions could still get worse.

Four bushfire warnings remain in place for the area because of the Pechey Fire, one for Esk (Watch and Act), one for Redbank Creek (Watch and Act), one for Ravensbourne (Watch and Act) and one for Cressbrook Creek (Advice).

  • Currently as at 5.20am Monday 18 November, an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn in the Deongwar State Forest and Redbank Creek areas. The fire is likely to impact the Esk township.
  • Currently as at 5.15am Monday 18 November, an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn on multiple fronts in the Deongwar State Forest and Redbank Creek areas. The fire is likely to impact Oaky Mill Road, Cressbrook Creek Road and areas in the vicinity of Esk Hampton Road, between Brennan Road and Brough Court including Kipper Creek Road and Regent Road.
  • Currently as at 4.45am Monday 18 November, an unpredictable fire is continuing to burn in Ravensbourne. This prepare to leave message is for residents within an area that extends from the southern side of Perseverance Dam Road and Cressbrook Dam, to Brennan Road, Garvey Road, Purtill Road, McQuillan Road and Esk Hampton Road. The fire is likely to impact these areas. Those who had evacuated are advised it is now safe to return, however this could change quickly and those who return should be prepared to leave. An evacuation centre is open at the Crows Nest Showgrounds, New England Highway near Showgrounds Terrace. The evacuation centre at Highfields Recreation Centre, O'Brien Road, is now closed.
  • Currently as at 11.15pm Sunday 17 November, an unpredictable bushfire is burning in Ravensbourne. Properties bounded by Cressbrook Dam, Perseverance Dam Road, Three Mile Road and Sebastapool Road are not under direct threat at this time, however this could change quickly and residents in these areas need to stay informed. Residents near the intersection of Dahl Road and Sebastapool Road have been informed about the fire activity in the area. 

Esk State School will be closed today because of the bushfire threat. 

"In the interests of the safety of the community, QFES have advised that Esk State School should be closed for (today), Monday, November 18, due to the ongoing threat of bushfires in the area," a Department of Education spokesperson said. 

"The department will continue to follow emergency services' advice and will keep the school communities informed of future developments and when the school will be open.

"Parents with children at independent schools in the area should check with their respective schools as to any particular local arrangements.

"Parents with children who attend an Early Childhood Education Centre are asked to contact the centre if they are unsure as to whether it will be closed."

Rural Fire Brigade fighting a bush fire crossing Mount Jockey Rd, Ravensbourne. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Rural Fire Brigade fighting a bush fire crossing Mount Jockey Rd, Ravensbourne. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

There is a Very High fire danger warning for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt today, down from the Severe rating that was reported at the weekend. 

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts winds will drop off today to about 10 to 15km/hr, providing firefighters with better conditions to fight the fire.

Smoke haze is expected in Toowoomba and Gatton today.

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said there had so far been no reports of any structure damage due to the fire.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

  • Listen to your local radio station or visit the Rural Fire Service (RFS) website for regular updates.
  • If you have a bushfire survival plan, finalise it now so you are ready to follow it.
  • If you do not have a bushfire survival plan, or if your plan is to leave, identify where you will go if you leave the area.
  • Advise family and friends of your plan.
  • Close windows and doors to minimise smoke exposure.
  • If you suffer from a respiratory condition, keep your medication close by.
  • Drive with caution in low visibility conditions.
  • Contact your neighbours to see if they need help preparing for the bushfire.
  • Pack important documents and essential items (e.g., passports, birth certificates, prescription medication, food and water, and protective clothing) in case you need to leave the area.
  • Put on protective clothing (e.g., a long-sleeved cotton shirt, boots with thick soles).
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Bring pets inside; restrain them with a leash, a cage, or inside a secure room; and provide them with plenty of water.
  • Take action to protect your livestock.
  • Move flammable materials such as doormats, wheelie bins, and outdoor furniture away from your house.
  • Fill containers such as your bath, sinks, and buckets with water so you have access to drinking water and firefighting water.
  • Close windows and doors, sealing the gaps under doors and screens with wet towels to keep smoke out of the house.

KEEP UP TO DATE BY:

  • Following QFES on Facebook (@QldFireandEmergencyServices) and Twitter (@QldFES)
  • Staying tuned to your local radio station. Find your local ABC radio station at https://radio.abc.net.au/help/offline and your local commercial radio station at http://www.commercialradio.com.au/find-a-station/queensland;
  • Visiting the Rural Fire Service (RFS) website at www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/map

FURTHER INFORMATION:

  • For bushfire preparation tips, visit the RFS website: www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/BushFire_Safety
  • For information about road closures, call 13 19 40 or visit www.qldtraffic.qld.gov.au

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