High fire danger on Southern Moreton Bay Islands, says QFES report

PROTESTERS: Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association members march to Redland City Council chambers last year, protesting about fire protection and other issues. Photo: Brian Williams
PROTESTERS: Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association members march to Redland City Council chambers last year, protesting about fire protection and other issues. Photo: Brian Williams

REDLAND City Council has been hit with a scathing fire report that warns of extremely high fire dangers on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands and some parts of the mainland.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services report said the islands, particularly Russell, were carrying extreme fuel loads and said council needed to better police islanders who did not take action to reduce fire loads and rubbish.

It recommends a secondary fire evacuation route be set up on Russell, something residents have long asked for, and for fire exclusion zones to have fuel levels reduced and be managed as a priority.

“Russell Island faces a significant risk posed by a single evacuation route,’’ the report says.

The report confirms fears raised by islanders after fires last year. These included council’s handling of fuel loads, escape routes and emergency communications.

But it also singled out residents for not taking basic actions to educate and protect themselves and lack of knowledge of fire plans.

It says islanders are responsible for high levels of dumped household, commercial, green waste, tyres, oils and building materials which added to dangers.

Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association chairman Greg Hartay-Szabo said at the time that many blocks were council owned and needed maintenance.

Mr Hartay-Szabo said he would comment on the report when it became publicly available.

After the fires on Russell and Macleay islands Redland City Council asked for QFES to review issues including fire vulnerability, maintenance, access trails and community understanding.

Although no homes were lost, the blazes terrified residents, some of whom considered it was not much more than luck that saved houses. It led to protests outside council headquarters at Cleveland.

The report, tabled at a general council meeting today, made 56 recommendations.

QFES report author Ian Moore said he found that 40 per cent of residents did not understand vegetation protection regulations and suggested better ways be found of explaining the need to balance ecological needs with community safety.

The report found QFES and other agencies had little knowledge of the islands and had to rely on mapping to respond to emergencies.

Fire trails were generally well maintained but more were needed while council’s fire mitigation planning managed bushfire risk for most of the year.

It says council should crack down on things like property maintenance, hoarding and dumping.

On the mainland an almost continuous belt of vegetation extended from Logan city to Sheldon and Mount Cotton, the areas that faced the highest probability of loss of undefended houses.

AWARD WINNING: QFES NSI station officer Bill Ewing, Council officer Allison Lamb, QFES area commander Paul Whalley, Council’s manager disaster planning and operation Mike Lollback, Mayor Karen Williams and QFES acting superintendent with emergency information packs heading to Straddie.

AWARD WINNING: QFES NSI station officer Bill Ewing, Council officer Allison Lamb, QFES area commander Paul Whalley, Council’s manager disaster planning and operation Mike Lollback, Mayor Karen Williams and QFES acting superintendent with emergency information packs heading to Straddie.