20 Oct 2009

Queensland homes saved from raging bushfires

9:06 pm on 20 October 2009

Firefighters in Australia have saved more than 100 homes from raging bushfires in Queensland's Rockhampton but several homes are still under threat.

Exhausted fire officers and support staff on Tuesday were replaced by 67 counterparts from New South Wales.

Conditions eased on Tuesday afternoon, but Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Commissioner Neil Gallant said fires continued to burn on Mount Archer near homes in the suburbs of Norman Gardens and Frenchville.

A Department of Community Safety spokeswoman said authorities hoped that firebreaks would protect houses in the area.

More than 100 firefighters battled fires across Norman Gardens on Tuesday morning. The fire reached the suburb shortly after 9am local time and came within metres of homes, licking at fencelines in some areas.

However, the 43 crews battling the blaze were able to prevent significant property damage through backburning and the use of aerial water-bombers.

Mr Gallant said the current fire season, which has seen fire crews in central Queensland battle blazes for 24 days in a row, was the worst he had experienced in his 26 years as a firefighter.

He said the fires would continue to burn until the region experienced some rain, but the outlook from the weather bureau was not good.

About 250 fire officers are fighting about 30 other blazes across the state. About 30 officers, including some from NSW, are battling a fire at Gaeta, west of Bundaberg, and 32 emergency services personnel are fighting a blaze on Kalpowar Road, Gaeta. The Gaeta fire has burnt 30,000 hectares since it began five days ago.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has vowed to provide bushfire-ravaged communities in Queensland with "all the support they need".

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard told parliament on Tuesday the commonwealth would provide disaster assistance to communities affected by the fires.