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Qld bushfires: Peregian Beach, Weyba still in danger zone

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FOOTAGE released by Queensland Police from Monday night’s inferno on the Sunshine Coast reveal the sheer intensity of the blaze which put homes and lives at risk.

Emergency services are battling blazes across the state, as Queensland grapples with one of it’s worst bushfire seasons on record.

QPS are currently investigating the cause of some of the fires and have confirmed some fires were deliberately lit.

Senior police have warned against vigilantism as they continue to investigate arson as a possible cause of the Peregian fire.

Four youths are being interviewed by detectives, but it is not clear if charges will be laid.

Queensland bushfires: Child arsonists let off with caution

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“We have a number of youths that we’re speaking to around the fire,” acting Acting Chief Superintendent Darryl Johnson said.

“Whether that’s intentional or not, I’m not certain at this stage of the investigation, that’ll come out in the fullness of time.

“We’ll just see how that investigation pans out and then we’ll establish whether the charges will be preferred or not.”

He called for calm from a community where some a furious that the fires may have been deliberately lit.

“Vigilante action or retribution is not what is asked for here,” he said.

Police are aware of rumours that looting occurred in the besieged seaside hamlet but have received no official complaints.

“So I’m quite confident that no ones house has been compromised. There hasn’t been any theft of property,” acting Chief Supt Johnson said.

“I’m saying that if you have experienced that, please come forward.”

Police will maintain a constant presence in Peregian Beach over the next few days.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll addresses a media conference today. Picture: Attila Csaszar/AAP
media_cameraPolice Commissioner Katarina Carroll addresses a media conference today. Picture: Attila Csaszar/AAP

Earlier it emerged the new police Taskforce Overcross was looking into 21 fires across the state.

Police have determined 10 were “definitely” deliberately or accidentally lit.

Eight of these have been solved, and Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said all involved juveniles.

“Some of those (kids) have been cautioned, others have been dealt with through youth conferencing, and others notice to appear and there has been an arrest as well,” she said.

“In some cases, it’s just young kids lighting a fire for fun, that fire has gotten away and obviously impacted in some ways very badly.

“Others, kids have gotten together and purposefully lit a fire and in other cases there have been obviously recidivist offenders around arson.

“So all the circumstances are very varied … and the police have dealt with them appropriately.”

None of the state’s 73 active bushfires are currently posing immediate threats to communities.

Acting Premier Jackie Trad said conditions across Queensland were “relatively calmer” last night when compared to the ember storm that tore through Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast this week.

However conditions are expected to worsen following a short reprieve today and tomorrow, with temperatures 5-6C degrees above average forecast from Friday onwards.

“Conditions will worsen beginning on Friday as we see a warmer air mass move into the southern part of Queensland,” Bureau of Meteorology weather services manager Richard Wardle said.

“We are expecting to see temperatures 5-6C above average for this time of year, so we’re talking about low to mid-30s.

“We actually expect on Monday Tuesday, those temperatures in the southern interior to be about 5 to 8C degrees above average for this time of year.

“Coupled with winds, that’s going to give us very high fire dangers.”

Very high fire dangers will remain in place for the central highlands and coalfields and the northern goldfields and upper Flinders today.

Further south, high fire danger ratings will be in place for eastern districts south of Cape York Peninsula today.

“That reduction is due to lighter winds and onshore winds bringing an increase in the humidity,” Mr Wardle said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is on her way back from Switzerland after cutting her Olympics mission short.

She will be back in Brisbane tomorrow.

Ms Trad said hundreds of firefighters were still on the ground.

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“To put this into context, last year’s fire season … the two weeks that we saw quite an intense level of activity in central Queensland where we did have to evacuate the whole township of Gracemere, some 540 community warnings were issue during that two week period,” she said.

“We have seen some 519 bushfire community warnings issued in the past eight days so that gives you a sense of what our firefighters and our Queensland Police frontline service workers have been facing over the last eight days.”

None of the fires in central, north and far north Queensland are posing any immediate threat.

Peregian Beach resident Kev Stevenson anxiously waits for access to Peregian to learn the fate of his property after the fire. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
media_cameraPeregian Beach resident Kev Stevenson anxiously waits for access to Peregian to learn the fate of his property after the fire. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

PEREGIAN RESIDENTS RETURN

THE road to Peregian has reopened and residents are pouring back in, as exhausted fire crews continue to battle a dangerous fire on the Sunshine Coast.

Police have advised that residents of Peregian Beach, Marcus Beach and Castaways Beach — areas east of the National Park — can now safely return to their homes, however all other evacuated areas are not yet safe to return to.

“Queensland police has advised an emergency situation is still in place in the Public Safety Preservation Act declared area around Weyba, Weyba Downs and Peregian Breeze,” police said in a statement.

“Residents of these areas should not attempt to return to their homes at this stage.

“David Low Way and the Sunshine Motorway are open to motorists and residents are urged to drive to the conditions and be patient as they make their way home.”

RAW: QFES water bombing the Peregian bushfire

Supplied video obtained Tuesday, September 10, 2019, showing efforts by QFES Air Ops in an aerial attack over Peregian. (AAP VIDEO/Supplied/Queensland Fire and Emergency Services)

Overnight, crews were still struggling with the dangerous fire that’s forced more than 5000 people from their homes.

The unrelenting bushfire crisis across her tinder-dry state has prompted Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to cut short an overseas mission to return to Queensland.

Eight fires are in the scope of a police taskforce to investigate the blazes, which have destroyed 17 houses across the state and damaged 67 others.

The fire affecting Peregian Beach, Peregian Breeze Estate and south of Lake Weyba remains extremely volatile.

Prepare to leave warnings are still in place for Peregian Beach, Peregian Breeze estate and Weyba Downs as residents line up along roads near the area in anticipation of being allowed home.

Residents are lined up waiting for the police to open the roads so they return to their Peregian homes after two nights away. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
media_cameraResidents are lined up waiting for the police to open the roads so they return to their Peregian homes after two nights away. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

While crews have managed to slow the progress of the fire, it remains uncontained and susceptible to flare-ups with weather changes.

It’s believed the fire may have been lit by teens.

Supplied image of the Peregian area bushfire on Monday night. Photo taken by resident Ian Martin
media_cameraSupplied image of the Peregian area bushfire on Monday night. Photo taken by resident Ian Martin

More than 5000 people from about 2500 homes were evacuated on Monday night while flames jumping across back yards and roads terrified residents.

Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington warned them on Tuesday night that it was still too dangerous to go home.

“We are not out of the woods yet, unfortunately, although there has been massive air bombing going on the fire still is threatening the Weyba Downs area.”

Forty homes were evacuated at Weyba Downs on Tuesday, just inland from the hard- hit Peregian Beach area, as winds picked up.

Residents like Robert Campbell were stopped by authorities while returning from dinner on Monday night and told to flee.

He still hasn’t seen his home.

“It’s surreal, I won’t know the damage until we find out,” Mr Campbell told AAP on Tuesday.

Acting premier Jackie Trad said it was “nothing short of a miracle” more homes weren’t lost.

Some 80 fires were burning in the state at one point on Tuesday as conditions worsened in the afternoon.

Smoke dominates the skyline on the Sunshine Coast near Peregian Beach. Picture: Patrick Woods/Sunshine Coast Daily
media_cameraSmoke dominates the skyline on the Sunshine Coast near Peregian Beach. Picture: Patrick Woods/Sunshine Coast Daily

The Bureau of Meteorology expects the fire danger to drop to ‘high’ across much of the state on Wednesday and Thursday due to more moderate winds and higher humidity.

But conditions could worsen into the weekend due to a rise in temperatures.

“The frustration, the angst, the uncertainty. You could just see it written all over their faces. These are really trying times,” acting Sunshine Coast mayor Tim Dwyer said.

There was better news from the Gold Coast hinterland fire that forced residents to abandon their homes over the weekend.

Residents allowed back into their homes at Peregian Beach

Hundreds of Peregian Beach residents who were anxiously waiting to get back into their homes, have celebrated after a police blockade was finally lifted shortly after 10am this morning.

“This is an afternoon of good news,” Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen declared.

“The wind has behaved very kindly to us, and we’ve been able to tell community members who have been displaced that they can now return home for the most part.”

Eight homes and five commercial structures have been destroyed including the 86-year-old, heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge, while three houses are severely damaged.

The fire there is now under control, but could burn for weeks or longer before much-needed rain puts it out.

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