At least one home has been destroyed and there are fears for several others as fire crews deal with a bushfire emergency at Laidley in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane.
As at 6:55pm, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) changed its bushfire warning for Grandchester and Laidley to “prepare to leave — watch and act”, but it said conditions could get worse.
It said a large slow-moving bushfire was burning to the west of Mountain Road, Kesslings Road, Range Crescent and Old Grandchester Road, travelling in an easterly direction towards Bushe Hill, near Range Crescent.
QFES said crews were working to contain the fire and the area would be affected by smoke, which reduced visibility and air quality.
It said residents of Ryan Road, Range Crescent, Kessling Drive, Mountain Road, Clearidge Court, Buhse Court and Old Grandchester Road who had left the area should not return.
An evacuation centre remains open at the Laidley Cultural Centre for affected residents.
Meanwhile, a bushfire has been contained near Railway Street and Coates Street at Laidley and continues to move in an easterly direction towards Buhse Hill, near Range Crescent.
Fire crews will continue to monitor the area into the evening.
QFES said residents who left the areas of Douglas McInnes Drive, Railway Street, Ward Court, Wilson Court, Tyrrell Court, Storr Street, Leonard Street, Edward Street and Coates Street could return to their homes.
Earlier on Tuesday, Laidley residents were urged to seek shelter immediately as a bushfire approached the town.
QFES had warned locals in the town of more than 3,000 it is “now too late to leave the area”.
“Driving now would be extremely dangerous,” it said.
“The fire is expected to have a life-threatening impact on the community”.
At least one house in the area has been lost.
Several waterbombing helicopters dumped water on the fire throughout Tuesday afternoon.
Police had declared an emergency situation in Laidley, warning people not to enter the area.
QFES Acting Deputy Commissioner John Bolger said hot and dry conditions were fanning the fire.
“For a little while there we even hit catastrophic fire conditions and now we’ve dropped back into the extreme conditions,” he said.
In nearby Grandchester, residents were urged to leave immediately due to a “large, unpredictable fire” moving easterly towards the town.
Leanne Owens owns a horse stud on the outskirts of Grandchester.
She said her property was safe but she was concerned for other residents whose properties were surrounded by gum trees.
“We’re fine here … there’s no grass to burn and we don’t have gum trees nearby and it looks like the Laidley crisis fire, the smoke has settled down. They had three choppers working it,” she said.
Further south, a “very dangerous” bushfire near the Glen Rock State Forest was moving towards the areas of Thornton and Townson, where residents were also told to leave immediately.
QFES issued an emergency warning for both areas, telling locals it would soon be too dangerous to drive.
The large bushfire flared on Monday and the QFES warned the fire was “expected to have a significant impact on the community”.
Parts of Queensland are experiencing temperatures more than 10 degrees Celsius above average and 31 fires are burning across the state.
Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan urged her community to heed the advice of authorities.
“The weather’s not going to be very kind to us over the coming hours and overnight,” Cr Milligan said.
“People do need to know to stay calm, take any directions or advice, listen to your local radio and to look out for each other — look out for your neighbours.”
The fire is another blow to a region that has been in the grip of drought for more than 12 months.
Cr Milligan praised the selflessness of landholders who had offered up the little resource they had to combat the blaze.
“Farmers who are already doing it tough are allowing firies to collect water from their dams which would’ve gone on their crops … it’s been a really good show of people working together collaboratively because no-one wants to see anyone get harmed,” she said.
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