OUT OF THE FLAMES

EVAC­U­ATED RES­I­DENTS STEP BACK INTO A DISAS­TER ZONE

Sunshine Coast Daily - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT SAWYER, SHAYLA BULLOCH AND PA­TRICK BILLINGS

IT WAS a mo­ment that seemed to take for­ever to come. At 9.55am yes­ter­day, res­i­dents of bushfire-rav­aged Pere­gian were al­lowed to re­turn to their homes. Emo­tions were strained as the harsh re­al­ity of the past 48 hours hit home. But for many came re­lief with the re­al­i­sa­tion their homes had es­caped with­out dam­age. Pam Mur­phy (pic­tured), who owned the only house com­pletely de­stroyed by the fire, said she was tak­ing the whole episode in her stride. When the fire came to the doorstep of Ms Mur­phy’s home of 40 years, it came quick. “I knew the fire was com­ing but I could see no flames, noth­ing what­so­ever,” she said. “And then, five min­utes later I looked out and flames were leap­ing all up my gar­den ... god it was quick.”

FIRE­FIGHT­ERS are breath­ing eas­ier af­ter a 48-hour bat­tle to save the north­ern Sun­shine Coast brought the Pere­gian blaze un­der con­trol in­side con­tain­ment lines.

Shaun Toohey, the op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer at the Pere­gian Springs fire con­trol cen­tre, said the fire was now con­tained and largely ex­tin­guished.

But as was the case with the Coolum fire two years ago, he said hot spots would con­tinue to put smoke in the air for some time.

“In the com­ing days we won’t take the foot off,” Mr Toohey said.

He said there would be a heavy po­lice, fire­fighter and Queens­land Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice pres­ence in the area.

Evac­u­a­tion or­ders have been lifted for all ar­eas al­low­ing fam­i­lies to re­turn to their homes.

In to­tal 364ha have been burnt bor­dered by David Low Way, Wood­land Drive, Mur­der­ing Creek Rd, Pere­gian Breeze Blvd and Old Emu Moun­tain Rd.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy has fore­cast a very high fire dan­ger rat­ing for to­mor­row af­ter what should be a cool­ish day to­day with light winds.

How­ever, the 27C max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture and de­vel­op­ing east to south­east winds at 15-25km/h are ex­pected to then ease into be­nign con­di­tions on the week­end.

Mr Toohey said a lot of work was done on the fire ground’s north­west flank on Tues­day with a huge ef­fort by fire­fight­ers along the Mur­der­ing Creek Rd and Wood­lands Drive con­tain­ment lines to stop spot fires break­ing out.

Yes­ter­day chop­pers con­tin­ued dam­p­en­ing down hot spots to al­low fire crews to get in with ad­di­tional wa­ter.

In to­tal 200 ve­hi­cles and 850 per­son­nel were en­gaged in the fire­fight that started just be­fore 5pm on Mon­day.

Mr Toohey said Queens­land Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices and rural crews from Bris­bane in the south to Her­vey Bay in the north were brought in to as­sist.

They were there to en­sure lo­cal crews weren’t over utilised and could main­tain their ca­pac­ity to deal with other fires that could break out across the re­gion.

Four McDer­mott Avi­a­tion he­li­copters teamed with one from Becker Avi­a­tion and another from Air T&G in Bal­lina to drop 37,500 litres of wa­ter every 10 min­utes on the fire ground on Tues­day.

Wa­ter was drawn from a pri­vate dam near the fire front and Pere­gian Springs Golf Course to main­tain the rate of de­liv­ery.

Pic­ture: Lachie Mil­lard

Pic­ture: Ian Martin/Lachie Mil­lard

FIGHT­ING BACK: Pere­gian lo­cals watch (in­set) as a wa­ter­bomb­ing he­li­copter reloads. TOP RIGHT: New re­cruits ar­rive yes­ter­day to fight the bushfire. BOT­TOM RIGHT: The ex­teme of the fire’s dev­as­ta­tion cap­tured from above.

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