Frenchville stays on high alert
THE only thing separating Chris Champion's Frenchville home from a rampaging bushfire is a thin bitumen road.
And with the Mt Archer bushfire approaching his Guthrie Street home late yesterday, all he could do was wait with a hose in hand.
His home was next to come under threat after firefighters at lunchtime successfully protected more than 100 homes on Rockhampton's northern outskirts from the raging bushfire.
Roads were closed and residents again evacuated on day 12 of the disastrous Mount Archer bushfires.
Rockhampton was still declared a disaster zone yesterday as the Commonwealth Government announced financial help for those affected by fire.
In an emergency situation under the Public Safety Preservation Act, police now have the power to evacuate homes as necessary due to the dynamic nature of the fires.
View photo galleries:Aerial photos of Rockhampton fires
About 4pm yesterday the fire front moved towards the Frenchville area, but fire breaks were able to prevent it from impacting.
However, the threat isn't over yet.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Commissioner Neil Gallant said fires could approach homes on the southern side of Sunset Drive in Norman Gardens and around Guthrie Street in Frenchville.
More than 100 fire fighters from across Queensland and NSW battled fires across Norman Gardens during the morning.
The fire reached the suburb soon after 9am and came within metres of residences, leaving scorch marks on fences in some areas.
However, fire crews were able to prevent significant property damage through back burning and the use of aerial water bombers.
A bulldozer was used to create a firebreak to prevent the fire from reaching properties, but residents were still advised to enact their bushfire plans.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service central region Assistant Commissioner Neil Gallant yesterday said this current bushfire season was the worst he'd experienced in his 26 years as a firefighter.
Crews have been battling blazes for 24 days straight across the region and 12 days in the Mt Archer area.
Mr Gallant said the fires would continue to burn until the region experienced some rain but said the outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology wasn't good.
“Until we get some rain there will continue to be areas around Central Queensland that will be of concern,” he said.
Roadblocks were in place until 1pm yesterday at Norman and Yeppoon roads intersection, Moores Creek and Norman road intersection and on Norman Road.
Mr Champion said yesterday was the first time in 20 years he had packed up his photo albums, after years of coming close to fires.
“We've been on red hot alert you could say,” he said with a wry smile yesterday as he continued to spray down his home.
With their two children at school, Chris and his wife, Trish, nursing a broken foot, opted to stay and continue to prepare their home and pack up treasured items despite official evacuation advice.
“We've been here 20 years and seen a few fires, but I've never packed up the photo albums before,” Trish said.
“We've never seen anything like this.”
At lunch time yesterday they were enduring a stomach-churning waiting game to see if the fire front would continue its descent towards their Frenchville home.
The Champions said many in the street had been pushing for a firebreak or backburning to be undertaken in that area for some time.
“We've written letters to ask for the grass to be slashed and maintenance in terms of providing a firebreak, but no-one's done anything,” Chris said.
“It's very dry and it's very high.”
He said those living in the street had resorted to trying to mow areas themselves, but there were too many rocks.
It was a call backed up by others in the street, one resident saying she had made phone calls also requesting a firebreak be established.
But the Champions were focused on doing what they could to be fire-ready.
“I think sometimes you have to stand and fight, but if it comes this way our decision will depend on the intensity of the fire,” Chris said.
It wasn't just the fire the family is watching, they are also on the lookout for an assortment of creepy crawlies and snakes which are trying to escape the blaze.
“We found a dead fox in the front lawn this morning; we're guessing it had been bitten by a snake stirred up by the fires,” Trish said.
Norman Gardens resident Carolyn Hewitt yesterday praised the work of SES, firefighters and police who helped residents evacuate and protected her home.
“They just need bouquets of thanks thrown at them,” she said.
“We evacuated because we couldn't breathe - it's all a bit emotional.”
Residents who decide to relocate are advised to stay with family or friends but if this option is not available the PCYC, on Bridge Street in Rockhampton, has been identified as an assembly point.
The QFRS is also asking any residents not directly affected by the bushfire threat to conserve water so residents and firefighters have the extra water and water pressure they need to protect properties.
Residents are advised to call Triple Zero (000) if their property comes under threat.
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