Two dead in terrifying sign of the summer

Fire burns through Tara. Picture: Today
A body has been found in the wake of bushfires which destroyed property in Queensland’s southeast. Picture: Today

Firefighters are warning the bushfires ripping through Queensland’s Western Downs could burn into the new year.

It comes as a second body was found following devastating bushfires across the region.

Residents were ordered to evacuate the towns of Tara and Kogan on Tuesday as fast-moving fires burning through the state’s southwest were elevated to emergency warning levels.

Two bodies have now been discovered since Monday, including an elderly woman who went into cardiac arrest and died while preparing to evacuate her property on Monday, the Courier Mail reported.

Queensland Police acting Superintendent Scott Stahlhut confirmed he was aware of the reports of a second death.

“I can’t say too much about that either unfortunately,” he said.

“The information I do have is that a person did suffer a medical episode in the Tara region but it wasn’t necessarily related to the fire.”

Another person died on fire grounds near Tara on Tuesday.

Acting Superintendent Stahlhut said police were now investigating the death but it’s understood the person had previously been reported missing.

Fire burns through Tara. Picture: Today
Residents at Tara and Wieambilla were told to evacuate immediately on Wednesday morning. Picture: Today

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Inspector Warren Buckley warned residents to listen to any advice from authorities.

I’m not going to mince words here, it’s a dangerous fire,” Inspector Buckley said.

“This is going to go on for a long time, we’re planning for this to go on past Christmas and early next year.

“It will be a long campaign until we get some rain.

“Please bear with us, we can’t have a fire truck on every corner but please take care, make sure you heed all the warnings we’re putting through - remain, safe, look after each other and community.”

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) issued another emergency warning about 10.20am on Wednesday, instructing residents in Tara and Wieambilla to “leave immediately”.

“This is an emerging situation and investigations are ongoing,” a police spokesman said.

Authorities estimate about 350 people evacuated the Tara region, while a further 50 people had evacuated Millmerran.

“Today, up to or just over 300 persons have registered through the Tara facility, and around about 200 have since relocated to the Dalby,” Acting Superintendent Stahlhut.

“The other persons have been relocated to Chinchilla or made their own arrangements.”

Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Ben Marcus told the ABC the discovery of the dead person had been the “worst possible outcome” for emergency services.

“The area is a crime scene and we are conducting our investigation and preparing a report for the coroner,” he said.

“Our wishes go out to the family at this very sad time.”

It’s understood police believed the body found near the dam was that of a missing man, and investigations are continuing into the circumstances of his death.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

Assistant Commissioner Marcus was unable to confirm the gender or provide additional information regarding the body.

An emergency level fire is burning in Queensland's south-east. Picture QFES.JPG
Three emergency level fires are burning in Queensland's southeast. Picture: QFES

Multiple warnings remain in place across the region, including an emergency warning for Tara and Wieambilla.

“Your life could be at risk,” QFES said in a statement, urging residents to flee.

“It will soon be too dangerous to drive.”

Properties between Bennett School Road, Mary Road, Joseph Road, Weranga North Road, Tara Kogan Road and Spinifex Road, including Chinchilla Tara Road are impacted.

More than 40 fires are currently burning across the Western Downs region and the rest of the state.

Authorities say about five buildings have been lost, though it is still too dangerous to assess the damage.

Multiple ground crews and aircraft are working to contain a large, fast-moving grassfire burning near Chinchilla Tara Road, Tara.
Multiple ground crews and aircraft are working to contain a large, fast-moving grassfire burning near Chinchilla Tara Road, Tara.

Extreme firefighting conditions have been exacerbated by hot weather, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) declaring extreme fire danger warnings for the Central West, North West and Channel Country on Thursday and Friday.

Gulf Country will also have an extreme fire danger warning in place on Friday.

A Tara resident told The Courier-Mail that it “feels like (the town) is being targeted”.

“This fire is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” the resident said. I used to be a volunteer firefighter in WA but this is something else.”

Tara fire in QLD. Picture Today.JPG
Evacuation orders reactivated in Millmerran Downs overnight. Picture: Today

Another Tara resident, Lenny Sava, told Today on Tuesday his home had been “burnt to a cinder” after fires tore through his property.

An emergency warning was escalated in Tara and Kogan early on Wednesday as a “large, fast-moving fire” pushed east towards Goranba and Weranga.

Firefighting aircraft have been activated to help ground fire crews as the blaze intensifies.

Tara fire in QLD. Picture Today.JPG
Tara resident Lenny Sava lost his home in the fires. Picture: Today

The neighbouring suburb of Wieambilla was escalated to an evacuation order after residents were told conditions could “deteriorate quickly”.

Residents of Cypress Gardens and Millmerran Downs who were forced to evacuate on Monday are unlikely to be able to return to their homes until at least Wednesday afternoon.

One of the residents forced to flee, Lorraine Hodkinson, told the Courier Mail said she thought she had lost her home after learning that other evacuees had lost theirs.

“All I could see was a big plume of smoke and flames, I had a bag packed and grabbed that, I got the dogs and we got out,” she said.

“I did not think our houses would have survived.”

Aerial photographs of the fires captured bright orange flames raging in the tree canopy on Monday.

It is expected the BOM will declare a fire weather warning for the Central West, North West and Channel Country on Wednesday afternoon.