With the Northern Territory and Queensland heavily impacted by bushfires in recent weeks, conditions are continuing to change rapidly, as emergency services brace for what authorities believe could be the worst fire season in decades.
Many thousands of acres have been burned, properties have been damaged beyond repair and lives have already been lost. And with more dry weather predicted, there are warnings that there is more to come.
Queensland fire crews have reportedly battled more than 420 bushfires in the past week, with 60 fires still raging.
And many roads are being cut off at short notice. The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has advised of various impacts to the state-controlled road network as a result of bushfires. But due to extensive fires across the state, diversions and alternative routes are difficult to confirm.
“We are starting to see some impacts on agriculture and conditions are predicted to deteriorate in the coming days, with BoM forecasting high temperatures this week and limited rain for three weeks,” said the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in communications distributed yesterday.
It added, “Central and Southern Queensland are at particular risk of bushfire outbreaks with a high to extreme fire danger anticipated, especially over the next 48 hours. Fires are severe in the Western Downs, Gladstone and North Burnett regions.”
While Bushfires NT warned of roads being heavily impacted by bushfires. It says almost every major highway has been impacted over recent weeks.
Well known truck driver and water driller Danyelle Haigh posted to her Facebook page just last week that she and her family had to deviate from a planned trip to Mt Isa, so they could head back to their rural NT property to protect it from a raging fire.
She says the fire was sparked by lightning strikes and was bolstered by strong winds.
Speaking with Big Rigs today, Haigh said, “They’re all under control at the moment – hopefully it stays that way. The fires are still only 5km from our property.
“We back burned up to the property, so that’s what stopped them – and we have a water cart too so we’ve been putting some of the smaller fires out with the water cart.
“Fires are expected here for this time of year with storms and that, but a lot of these fires have been deliberately lit. Tennant Creek just got hit again with fires on the other side.
“We’re back out drilling now but if we have to, we can deviate back.”
The rapidly-changing fire situation only adds weight to calls for a national interstate freight route alert system.
WA’s peak trucking body, Western Roads Federation (WRF), and the NT Road Transport Association (NRTA) have united in their calls for this type of warning system to be put into place.
“The lessons learnt during the 2020 Eyre Highway fires and again being learnt by the Barkly Highway fires is that early advice has to be given to interstate operators that a road is closed due to a fire or flood incident,” said WRF CEO Cam Dumesny.
“Currently all systems are state-based, leading to some interstate drivers arriving at, or near incident sites. A national system enabling earlier incident advice to interstate drivers may enable them to consider alternative plans.”
Drivers are being reminded to drive carefully, be aware of changed traffic conditions and follow the direction of any traffic control on site.