Kieran Tunbridge

Grass fires threaten regions this summer

PARTS of Bundaberg are on edge after the area had one of the highest number of grass fires in eight weeks across regional Queensland.

And residents have been warned to get their safety plans in place after 733 properties were found to be at very high risk from bushfires.

A special APN Newsdesk investigation found there were 75 grassfires between August 1 and September 30.

The highest number of grassfires for the period was in Ipswich with 225, Rockhampton with 184, Sunshine Coast with 167, Toowoomba with 82 and Bundaberg.

About 733 properties are in the very-high-risk zone and 50 are in the high-risk zone.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service conducted 21 burns on 7604ha of Wide Bay land and nine burns over more than 3428 in the Southern Great Barrier Reef region over the past few months to reduce fuel hazards.

One of Queensland's top fire officers said the outer reaches of the region were a disaster waiting to happen.

Rural Fire Service Queensland Assistant Commissioner Neil Gallant said the remnants of Cyclone Oswald in 2013 were being felt.

"There is high potential because there's a lot of vegetation left over from the huge rains they (Bundaberg) had from Oswald," Mr Gallant said.

"The vegetation in that Burnett area down through the south-east corner is quite high and that area is in a significant rainfall deficit - so whilst the storm rain reduces the issues for a few weeks, overall the deeper soil moisture is below average.

"Out around Kingaroy, those areas certainly above average potential.

"We're starting to see activity pick up in Monto, Kingaroy, Gayndah and Murgon.

"Unless we get further follow-up rain it will dry out fairly quickly."

He urged property owners to prepare for the worst.

"Property owners... need to get in now when there has been a little bit of rain around and conditions are still okay," Mr Gallant said.

"Because once it really starts to dry out conditions will be very difficult to do controlled burns."

Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey said the RFSQ used sophisticated mapping technology to identify the properties which faced high fire dangers.

"We want all Queensland families to remain safe this bushfire season and our mapping technology has allowed us to directly target properties at risk," he said.

"They will be provided with a flyer and fridge magnet with information on what different bushfire warnings mean and how they should prepare for a bushfire.

"If you receive this information in the mail you will know that the RFSQ has identified your property as being at risk of being impacted by bushfire."

National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said QPWS had reduced fuel hazards over the past few months.

"Reducing fuel hazards is particularly important in managing the potential threat of fire to human life and property," Mr Dickson said

"However, the burning program also has benefits for biodiversity and the environmental values of our parks and forests."


Grassfires by region from August 1 to September 30

Area, Number

Ipswich: 225

Rockhampton: 184

Sunshine Coast: 167

Toowoomba: 82

Bundaberg: 75

Fraser Coast: 74

Mackay: 70

Gladstone: 46

Gympie: 21

Warwick: 15

Total: 959


Bundaberg properties at risk

Very high danger: 50

High danger: 683

Total: 733

Source: Queensland Fire and Emergency Service

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