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.”
Widespread bushfires have plagued the western Queensland district of Tara ever since a highly questionable shooting incident at Wieambilla on December 12, 2022 left six people dead, including two young police officers.
It is surely coincidental that a coronial inquest into the Wieambilla massacre which started on June 15 is presently underway in Brisbane, being run by State Coroner Terry Ryan assisted by Counsel Ruth O’Gorman KC.
Ruth is the daughter of former well known and retired, popular police officer Bluey O’Gorman who was a former President of the Queensland Police Union.
Fire crews have been brought to Tara and Wieambilla from around the state this week in an attempt to control a number of blazes which so far have killed two residents and razed 16 homes.
Firefighters are blaming a lack of rain to date this year as creating the right conditions for wildfires which crews have been unable to control.
If there has been no worthwhile rainfall in the district, then what is burning after earlier fires claimed thousands of acres of bushland?
Much of the northern and eastern Tara area has large areas of Cypress pine growing in old growth forests. Cypress pine is full of oil and when very dry is extremely combustible burning quickly and hot.
The south west is suffering drought conditions seeing temperatures rise up to 40C but this hot weather is certainly no stranger to the west.
Forest fires in rugged areas are hard to access but if no structures are under threat experienced firefighters usually construct a break with bulldozers around the forest perimeter and “let ‘er burn” utilising back burning off the break.
Firefighters have described the conditions as extremely dangerous and advised residents in the affected areas to evacuate quickly and go to emergency shelters in nearby Dalby as the Tara evacuation centre has been closed.
Queensland Fire Emergency Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter Hollier said more than 350 people had been evacuated around the Tara and Wieambilla areas. They are being relocated from Tara to Dalby, he told the Courier Mail.
There was a warning in place for the township of Tara.
“There are still multiple crews and aircraft working on the crews at this stage,” he said.
“At this stage it’s a fast moving grass fire in some of those areas, the remainder is still in very difficult terrain that we are having difficulty accessing.
“We have had the use of the large air tanker today which conducted a number of drops in the Tara township ahead of any potential weather that we may experience in the next few days.”
Assistant Commissioner Hollier said there were 60 active fires across Queensland.
“As you are well aware we have been fighting more than 100 vegetation fires across the state already this week,” he said.
“As the conditions are prevailing, certainly the very high to extreme fire danger conditions are still continuing.”
Assistant Commissioner Hollier said he was “absolutely” worried about forecasts of gusty and dry winds today.
“Absolutely, so what has been a constant in the last few days has been the wind and certainly the strength of the wind,” he said.
“If the wind was to then become further gusty that then increases the opportunity for the fire to certainly make a run and it would certainly be difficult to contain.
“The challenge is, of course, things are so dry. We haven’t seen it so dry, we’ve come off three years of a really good wet period.
“That southwestern part of the state certainly hasn’t had any significant rain since last year whereas other parts of the state have.
“They’re in a situation out there where I’ve said it only takes the slightest spark, with the wind, with the temperature, it certainly is the opportunity for a fire to make a run fairly quickly. So what we refer to as a wind-driven fire.”
Fire warnings for the Tara area have just been downgraded and residents remain on a ‘wait and see’ basis but fire authorities have not yet advised residents to return home.
Check out the spot fire patterns of these fires from space: