‘If I was to live, I was going to have to run’

 

BY THE time 18-year-old Beau Williams gave up fighting the blaze bearing down on his property and bolted towards nearby Lake Cooroibah, he was racing kangaroos to the water's edge.

With the scrub ablaze and embers falling from the sky, Beau ripped the school shirt from his back and covered his face from the intense white smoke and made a desperate call to his dad.

The amazing tale of survival in the Sunshine Coast hinterland came as authorities braced for severe fire conditions on Wednesday, saying there was no end in sight for this year's horror Queensland fire season.

More than 50 blazes continued to burn across the state, including in areas that had not burned for decades.

 

Beau Williams and his father Brian Williams who lost their home in the fires. Fires in Noosa. Pic Peter Wallis
Beau Williams and his father Brian Williams who lost their home in the fires. Fires in Noosa. Pic Peter Wallis

 

Homes and sheds were destroyed on the Sunshine Coast and at Cobraball, north of Rockhampton, with an historic state of fire emergency declared in 42 council areas.

Beau told The Courier-Mail of his lucky escape.

"I was pretty panicky and at times I thought I was going to choke on the smoke it was so thick," he said.

But he pushed on, running through the shallow water towards a boat ramp 600m in the distance, where his father was waiting in his car.

"I was choking quite a bit, the fire was right behind me," the Good Shepherd Lutheran College Year 12 student said.

Beau's dad Brian Williams tried to get back to the property, but was beaten back after 200m and the men retreated to an evacuation zone.

The next news they heard of their idyllic 5ha property was that it had been destroyed.

The men had been building an eco-lodge, but two glamping huts they had built were in ashes and a large storage shed was a hunk of twisted, burned metal.

Beau was amazed at how quickly the fire turned and bore down on him.

When he arrived home from school about 1.30pm on Friday, he could see the fire and smoke in the distance, but a friendly wind masked the danger.

Everything changed in what felt like just half an hour.

Smoke rapidly turned a thick white and he started hearing the flames bursting through the scrub.

"I realised if I was actually to live, I was going to have to run and I ran towards the lake," Beau said.

"As I was running, spot fires were starting around me caused by the air being full of ash and ­embers and I had kangaroos and stuff just running along with me trying to get away down to the lake.

"I am just totally lucky to have made it out with my life."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that there would be a constant fire danger over the next week, with Wednesday expected to be a "very serious day".

"We have had a briefing from the bureau and we are not expecting much rainfall until December and on to next year," she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting very high and severe fire dangers for the south-east, Darling Downs, Granite Belt and Wide Bay.

 

 

Satellite view of NSW bushfires. Picture: JPSS/AAP
Satellite view of NSW bushfires. Picture: JPSS/AAP

 

Acting Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Mike Wassing said that the fire season started in August and could stretch to next year with no real rain on the horizon.

He warned firefighters had a "long haul ahead".

Mr Wassing said the dry conditions meant firefighters were battling blazes in areas that traditionally did not burn.

"We've still got a lot of active fires and a lot of fire risk ahead of us," Mr Wassing said.

"In Queensland, we have had a fire danger basically since August.

"We have had significant fires since early-September then again in October and here we are in early-November with again a lot of serious fires occurring.

"We've got a lot of active fire in the hinterlands in the Scenic Rim and the like, but they have been very well managed," he said.

"Those fires will continue to burn and continue to put up a lot of smoke and again, with the conditions going to get worse again on Wednesday, we are expecting severe fire danger again on Wednesday."

He said a major fire burning north of Rockhampton was the culmination of two blazes that had joined together and would continue to remain an issue for some time.

 

 

A teenage boy suffered serious burns while desperately trying to defend his family home at Cobraball.

The 16-year-old boy, who has luckily been the only injury reported, was taken to Rockhampton Hospital with burns to his left leg.

Volunteer firefighter Chris Giles said a blaze he fought until just after daybreak yesterday in the Sunshine Coast hinterland was "intense", with the wall of flames up to 15m high at times as it danced through the trees.

It took crews more than 18 hours to bring the Booroobin fire, near Maleny, under control about 8am yesterday.

He said crews had been on the back foot all fire season after their usual backburning period of two months was reduced to three weeks because of "the climate that we're experiencing", as well as limited resources and infrastructure.

Mr Wassing said the QFES was working with NSW and other states to share resources as authorities managed fires as well as firefighter fatigue.

Federal Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said the "serious" situation was far from over with areas of the country set to face even more challenging conditions.

He said the Federal Government was ready to act on any application from the Queensland Government to trigger emergency assistanceto people affected by the fires.