HELL ON EARTH: Fire encroaches on the Southern Downs this week. Photo: Rebecca Bell
HELL ON EARTH: Fire encroaches on the Southern Downs this week. Photo: Rebecca Bell

Mounting challenges test Southern Downs firefighters

FIREFIGHTERS brave diabolic conditions today as the mercury rises to the high 30s on the Southern Downs.

The blistering temperatures will challenge crews stationed at North Branch and Swanfels after a gruelling 24 hours fighting fires that threatened homes and lives yesterday.

Westerly winds caused the "large and unpredictable" fire to briefly flare across the break lines, according to Freestone Rural Fire Brigade first officer Alan Payne.

"We mostly managed to maintain the break but we did have a couple of flare ups," Mr Payne said.

"We called in the waterbombers and they kept it under control."

The crews' exhaustive efforts, both in preparation and in action, saved nearby homes from destruction.

"We haven't lost any structures so far on this side of the range," Mr Payne said.

"So from that perspective I'd say we ran it pretty well.

"At the end of the day everyone goes home and none of those homes are burnt, so that's a win."

Crews aim to build additional fire breaks to stop the blaze from coming down into the valleys today.

"Whether we're successful or not, who knows, but at least we're trying," Mr Payne said.

"The goal is to try to cordon it in again and totally contain it."

Mr Payne cautioned the community to heed official Queensland Fire and Emergency Service warnings rather than engaging in "Chinese whispers".

"A lot of issues are coming from people tending to use their own imagination and it just becomes bigger and bigger as it goes down the line," he said.

The spread of misinformation was exacerbated by smoky conditions, according to Mr Payne.

"The trouble is, it's hard for people to tell where the fire is and that creates a fair bit of concern," he said.

Ultimately, Mr Payne said official warnings weren't issued without careful consideration from experts.

"People can be critical of QFES but at the end of the day it's like any safety thing, it's there to protect you," he said.

"It's a lot better to be proactive than reactive.

"If it turns out that nothing happen and there's no problem after all, just consider it a good thing."