Fire at Watsonville: QFES evacuates blaze warning zone

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Police have issued an emergency declaration under the Public Safety Preservation Act (PSPA) in reference to a wildfire in the Innot Hot Springs area.

Officers are at the scene of the fire, where an emergency has been declared between the Kennedy Highway, Silver Valley Road and Uramo Road and bordered by bushland.

It covers the municipality of Innot Hot Springs, with specific focus on Broken Gully Road, Brodie Road, Herbert River Road, Rienecker Road.

The public is advised to avoid the area.

Traffic diversions are in place.

One lane of the Kennedy Highway near Innot Hot Springs is open only with a police escort. Delays are expected.

Earlier on Thursday, a fast-moving fire that tore through the Watsonville and Herberton areas was downgraded and on Wednesday afternoon one home in the Watsonvile area on Sandridge Rd and one home on Silver Valley Rd were destroyed by fire.

An immediate leave warning was issued by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services at 4pm for properties on Herbert River Road, Brodie Road, Rienecker Road and Petersen Road.

The fast-moving fire is burning near Herbert River Road and is expected to hit Innot Hot Springs very soon.

Another emergency warning was issued for the Jumna Dam and All Nations Mine in the Irvinebank area, with residents urged to leave immediately at 2.25pm.

The fast-moving fire is burning near Herberton Petford Road, Bakersville and is expected to hit Jumna Dam within the next few hours, QFES said.

An emergency declaration early Thursday was downgraded to the ‘stay aware’ advisory level in the Watsonville area, although major roads or highways including Herberton Petford Road in Watsonville could be affected.

Residents of Herberton, Silver Valley and surrounding areas have also been advised to be alert.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Tablelands Regional Council opened evacuation centers after QFES issued emergency alerts for immediate leave, but by 8pm the centers were closed and residents were told it was safe to return home.

Two new evacuation centers are now open for community members who have no other shelter at Ravenshoe Community Center and Mount Garnet Town Hall.


Residents of Watsonville were given an immediate furlough warning Wednesday as a fast-moving fire affects properties.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services warning at 11.30am advised residents in the warning area to “leave immediately, your life may be in danger and it will soon be too dangerous to drive”.

At 3:08 p.m., another emergency warning was issued regarding a rapidly progressing fire along Silver Valley Road.

Residents have been ordered to leave immediately.

A fast-moving fire is burning along Silver Valley Road. At 3 p.m., it was expected to hit Clark Road within the hour.

Previously, the northern fire front is threatening properties between Herberton Petford Rd, Sandridge Rd, Walsh River Rd and Bishoff Mill Rd, including Shiffron Road and Eichblatt Rd.

The eastern front is advancing steadily towards the town of Herberton in the Atherton Tablelands and is now burning through the Anniversary Falls area, approximately 1km from the houses.

Rural Fire and QFES fire volunteers threw everything at the fire, including water bombing helicopters who worked through the night in attempts to stop the front’s advance, which was fueled by strong winds of more than 40km/h.

The fast-moving fire is now burning near the Walsh River. This is expected to impact West Bischoff Mill Road very soon.

As crews on the ground fought frantically to save homes, it was difficult to get regular updates on the situation, but QFES director of regional operations Adam Gwin said there was “soft evidence” that buildings had been destroyed by fire on Wednesday.

“There may have been some impact on the structures,” he said.

Over the past three weeks, fires threatening properties in Millstream, Innot Hot Springs, Mareeba, Cooktown, Mutchilba and now Herberton have stretched resources to the limit.

Mr Gwin said local brigades usually only tackle fires in their immediate area, but there are full-time permanent firefighters attached to the rural fire service who have been away from home for long periods and had to move around between fires.

“Our concern now is that fatigue management and heat management are probably the two biggest issues that we are working hard to manage,” he said.

“We are receiving help from other parts of Queensland and a strike team arrived in Cairns (Wednesday) and will be on the firing line tomorrow.

“But we are not out of the woods yet and we expect a few more weeks of fire activity and until we get significant rainfall we are not in a comfort zone.”

A volunteer firefighter speaking from the Watsonville front said people had been told to “get out” before it was too late.

“We have 24 units and all possible tools, bulldozers and all the equipment and equipment,” he said.

“It’s probably about 40 km/h, the fire is creating its own weather at the moment.

“People come to us and ask what to do, people listen to us because they know how serious it is.”

In Herberton, Australian hotel worker and assistant firefighter Gareth Norman said he was in communication with his local fire chief Damian Irwin and was ready to defend the town if necessary.

He said smoke is clearly visible on the mountains on the west side of the city.

“There was an evacuation warning, but people have been told to have an escape plan ready and be prepared when things strike,” he said.

“I believe people are worried, but they are not panicking, they are on their guard.

“The fires don’t want people to panic unless there is panic. But people need to be aware of the seriousness of it, but there has been no town meeting yet.”

An advisory level QFES warning has been issued for Herberton properties between Broadway Road, Elwyn Phillips Memorial Drive and Moffat Street West, including Creek Street and Elizabeth Street.

Smoke warnings have also been issued for the nearby Silver Valley.

With flames licking peaks within a mile of Herberton Hospital, Mr Gwin said there were initial concerns about the building’s safety but the building, almost completely surrounded by bushes, was now safe.

Looking ahead, Mr Gwin said what the fire does on Thursday would be highly dependent on the weather and the level of firefighting that can be achieved well into the night.

“The agency has predicted that there will be a cooler change and we are working on the theory that the weather will be more favorable for firefighting,” he said.


Homes at Jumna Dam and All Nations Mine in Irvinebank.

Homes on Herbert River Road, Brodie Road, Rienecker Road and Petersen Road


– Leave immediately and follow your forest fire survival plan now.

– Your life could be in danger. It will soon be too dangerous to drive.

– If your life is in danger, call triple-0 (000) immediately.

– Avoid driving on the Kennedy Highway; this is closed at Innot Hot Springs.

– Go to a place outside the emergency warning area. Plan how to get there. Tell others where you are going.

– Check the QLD Traffic website for road closures before traveling or call 13 19 40.

– Wear protective clothing and stay hydrated.

– Keep medications on hand.

– Stay informed:

– Continue to check the QFES Current Bushfires and Warnings website

– Follow QFES on Facebook and Twitter

– Listen to your local radio station

– Do not fly drones around the fire. Drones impact air operations.


– Properties are now affected.

– Firefighters may not be able to prevent the fire from getting closer. Don’t expect a fireman at your door.

– Power, water and cell phone services may stop working soon.

– Smoke makes it difficult to see and breathe. The smoke stings your eyes.

– It’ll be hot and loud. You may hear explosions nearby.

– The sky will be dark.

– You could become isolated.

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