Fraser Island Bush Fire Monday November 30
Fraser Island Bush Fire Monday November 30

Department defends management of Fraser fire disaster

HOT weather, strong winds and "highly flammable" vegetation types all contributed a situation in which the wildfire on Fraser Island proved almost impossible to combat.

That is according to a spokesman from the Department of Environment and Science, who said the fact that K'gari was a sand island and didn't hold moisture as efficiently as the mainland also added to the challenge of fighting the blaze.

The blaze is believed to have been started by an illegal campfire.

More than a million litres of saltwater and gel have been dropped on the fire since Saturday.

"While the use of saltwater is not ideal, there is little residual impact and presents as the most readily available water source in aerial attacks," the spokesman said.

"The impacts from saltwater also need to be evaluated against the impacts of the fire's continuation."

The spokesman said Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service responded immediately to the wildfire but early attempts to conduct back-burns within days after the fire commenced proved difficult and unsuccessful due to strong dry northerly weather conditions and the highly flammable vegetation types.

"QPWS has conducted significant fire mitigation on K'gari, with planned burns averaging approximately 13,000 hectares per year over the last five years.

"It is important to remember that while the fire has been burning for some time, for most of that period it has been in remote and inaccessible parts of the island and burning at lower intensities, creating a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country.

"QPWS has undertaken significant fire mitigation measures on K'gari, including planned burns for asset protection and maintenance on strategic fire lines.

"Despite this, it cannot combat the fire inducing effects of prolonged periods of hot, dry and windy weather conditions."

The spokesman said several factors including hot, dry and windy conditions had reduced the effectiveness of firefighting efforts that have been ongoing on the island.

"Campers across Queensland need to take responsibility for putting out fires properly to save lives, property and the environment," he said.