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the Breeze

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It was the biggest fire on the Bay Islands in recent memory.

And because it was in the wake of the Macleay Island fire just two weeks prior, fire authorities and emergency services clearly learned from that experience and decided to ‘hit early and hit hard’.

It was crucial to the fire being largely contained within a massive 170 hectares of Russell Island bushland off central road in the centre of the island bounded by Glendale Road in the south and Kurrajong Road and Rampart Drive in the north, and affecting bushland and streets on both sides of Centre Road.

At the height of the blaze, there were breakouts everywhere within the 170 hectare area.

Fire crews were brought from all over the Bay Islands and the mainland.

A spokesperson for Redland City Council said the huge resources that were brought to the fire early had been decisive.

“It was remarkable that no homes were damaged.”

Clearly, at times it was thought homes would be lost.

Over several nights residents from homes in the affected areas were accommodated at the declared evacuation centre at the Russell Island Recreation Hall.

Fire Crews, SES and Emergency Services and police were accommodated at the Union Street Resilience Centre.

At one state there were 21 rural and eight urban fire fighting units and two command crews from QFES on the island along with council fire crews.

Not only were they fighting the fire directly, but were protecting the bounded areas with back burning operations along the southern perimeter of Glendale Road.

At the southern end of the island, the fire jumped to the inaccessible Melomy’s Wetlands. It was left to burn out.

The fire broke out on Wednesday, December 15, in what may have been suspicious circumstances. Fire investigation units are currently investigating.

With little or no rain on the islands for some months a tinder box scenario awaited and responded in kind.

It took nearly a week for the fire to be totally extinguished.

It was a huge relief to the island community that no property or lives were lost and that was thanks to the massive effort.

Redland City Council estimated around 400 people were involved in the combined official response, from agencies including Queensland Fire and Rescue Services (urban and rural brigades), Redland City Council, Queensland Police, State Emergency Services, Red Cross and Queensland Ambulance Service.

This figure includes more than 200 people directly involved in fire-fighting including 12 in-air operations, in excess of 110 rural fire officers and 64 urban fire officers with Redland City Council providing approximately 11 trained fire-fighters.

On-the-ground fire-fighting crews were supported by numerous logistical, administration, coordination and media staff at the Local Disaster Coordination Centre and on Russell Island, who worked in shifts throughout the emergency response.

Special mention goes to the Russell Island community groups, businesses and individuals who offered their support and assistance to emergency services teams.

Countless members of the community came together to help fire-fighting efforts directly and indirectly, and continue to provide invaluable information and aid to the official response.

• Volunteer Fire Fighters back burning.



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