Experts warn fire danger could become 'catastrophic'
"CATASTROPHIC” conditions threaten to place the Southern Downs at the "epicentre” of fire danger tomorrow, according to Freestone Rural Fire Service First Officer Alan Payne.
"It's a bad combination,” Mr Payne said.
"We're all on standby for tomorrow and ready to go if it kicks off.
"We're going to hit it as hard as we can before it takes hold.”
A perfect storm of strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity pushed the Bureau of Meteorology to issue an extreme fire danger warning for Friday and experts say isolated pockets could reach a record-breaking level of catastrophic danger.
BOM meteorologist Livio Regano said west-northwesterly winds could reach speeds up to 55km/hr and the daily high is expected to hit 32C.
"The senior forecaster said there could be local isolated pockets of catastrophic indexes, but the warning won't include mention of those,” Mr Regano said.
Mr Payne said the catastrophic rating was introduced after Black Saturday devastated the Victorian bush in 2009.
"Usually extreme was the furthest we would go, but then they looked at the index and saw conditions reached beyond what ratings had been set,” he said.
"It would be the first time we've recorded catastrophic levels but it's part and parcel of what fires we'd expect in the dry conditions.
"I've definitely seen fires getting more and more severe over the years in our area.”
The rural brigades will be ready to roll out, with volunteers on notice and stations manned.
A total fire ban is in place for Friday and Saturday.
Residents are encouraged to clear out gutters, remove any rubbish and have a bushfire survival plan ready to be enacted.
"Keep an eye on the weather, listen to the radio for warnings and if you see any smoke call 000,” Mr Payne said.
"The sooner we know, the sooner we can get on top of it.”
Should your property face fire damage, Mr Payne suggests evacuating sooner rather than later.
"It's your choice, but if you haven't got a hope of defending your house it's better to leave before you get shut in,” he said.
Should residents need to leave their homes, they can take refuge in Neighbourhood Safer Places including Heritage Park in Pratten, the Leyburn Sprints staging area, Wallangarra driver reviver and the Goomburra intersection at the corner of Goomburra Rd and Inverramsay Rd.
Several steps can be taken if residents are stuck inside properties, including ember-proofing homes, bringing pets inside, disconnecting hose fittings, filling gutters with water and placing wet towels in any crevices.
For more information and to create your own bushfire survival plan please visit www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au