Inside the fire: Firey confident tonight after aerial attack
HUNDREDS of residents have spent a terrifying night escaping a raging bushfire at Peregian Springs that's destroyed more than 10 homes.
The Sunshine Coast Daily is at the scene and will provide rolling updates from those who have been impacted by the blaze.
A SECOND blast from the Boeing 737 Large Aerial Tanker didn't occur, but sustained helicopter attacks on the large firefront burning around Peregian have left Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Sunshine Coast zone commander Superintendent Andrew Bailey confident their ground resources will be enough to control the blaze overnight.
He said the heli attacks had "really put a big dint in it" and he was "extremely confident" ground crews on-site would be able to deal with the fire throughout the evening.
He said barring something "drastic" happening, there would be no threat to structures.
Supt Bailey said if power could be reconnected sufficiently tonight, he was hopeful some residents may be able to return to Peregian Beach, but that call would depend on whether electricity crews were satisfied.
He said the incident control room would run through the night at Caloundra, while the forward command centre at Coles Peregian Springs would also keep operating tonight.
About 20 urban and rural crews would remain on the fireground through tonight.
Supt Bailey praised the efforts of all crews who'd worked to protect lives and property throughout last night and today.
He said to have only suffered one structural loss from such a blaze was an "amazing" testament to the efforts of firefighters.
AN IMMINENT shift in weather has fire crews focusing on key areas of concern, as they battle to bring under control a bushfire which has torn through Peregian Beach and surrounding areas.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Sunshine Coast zone commander Superintendent Andrew Bailey said Murdering Creek Rd was a focal point of crews at the moment, as they prepared for a change in wind.
The wind was set to swing from south-westerly to southerly and then south-easterly this afternoon, creating plenty of challenges for firefighters.
It was understood fire crews were desperate to hold the line from Murdering Creek Rd to Woodland Dr.
Supt Bailey praised the work of aerial attack crews this morning, who relentlessly waterbombed the blaze.
"We're very happy with what the water bombers did this morning," he said.
Supt Bailey said the Boeing 737 Large Aerial Tanker requested from the NSW Rural Fire Service this morning, which had been tasked from Sydney, had been redirected to a massive blaze in Yamba, on the NSW north coast.
Supt Bailey said it was possible Peregian Beach residents would be allowed back into the suburb later this afternoon or this evening, but he was "loathe to give a time" in case a "freak event" like last night's blaze happened again.
STAFF at Edge Early Learning in Peregian Breeze have taken to the streets to thank emergency services currently battling to control a fierce blaze closing in on Marcus Beach.
The childcare team were told to evacuate at 6pm yesterday as fire threatened the area.
Director Kelly McLaughlan and her team, including Ashleigh Stegeman, Carley Brooks and Sarah Baddock were out in Peregian this afternoon handing out water, chocolate and lollies to emergency services personnel.
"It's just to show our appreciation," Ms McLaughlan said.
"This is the least that we could do, to say thank you."
Her son, JJ McLaughlan, delivered a sugar hit to police Sergeant Phillip Stephens, who was stationed at the Peregian Beach roadblock.
It's still not known when the road will be reopened for residents to return to their homes.
Fire trucks and crews have been deployed along the length of Woodland Dr from the David Low Way at Peregian to Murdering Creek Rd's Sunshine Motorway connection near Peregian Springs in a bid to halt the northward march of the fire.
Peter Garrett of the Maroochy River Rural Fire Brigade said a dozer was also working along the containment line to widen the fire break before winds strengthen to gusts of 50km/h in the coming hours.
The expected arrival has been delayed of a 737 water-bombing jet to back up the efforts of a fleet of six fire-fighting helicopters.
Acting Rural Fire Services area director Andrew Allan said he thought issues with the aircraft itself had been behind that delay.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Harry Clark said winds were expected to gust to 50km/h along the coastal fringe this afternoon before easing quickly inland.
He said winds would shift briefly to just slightly south east of south this afternoon, move to south, south east overnight then shift straight southerly as it returned to the south west Wednesday morning.
Winds on Wednesday would be lighter than today, but still moderate to fresh before dropping out to light, variable conditions on Thursday.
Temperatures would remain below average on both days before climbing back to 27C on Friday when they would climb to 27C.
Mr Clark said the week's best day was Thursday with light variable winds predicted.
The relative humidity, which measures moisture in the air, was hanging around 30-34 percent but would gradually increase to 50 per cent.
Mr Clark said it was expected the Fire Danger Rating would return to 'Very High' by Friday and remain there for the weekend.
STREETS were deserted around Peregian and Marcus beach as helicopters raced to drop water on a fire burning close to homes.
Only some locals had returned to their homes since being evacuated last night after fearing the worst, including Mick Curley who left his sprinkler running before he evacuated.
The keen surf photographer said the view of the fire from his back deck looked like the "apocalypse".
Large embers flew into his deck from the fire burning on the ridge, but luckily his property wasn't damaged.
Mr Curley said the glow of the flames was frightening and the popping of fire sounded like homes exploding.
Multiple choppers and rural fire crews were fighting the blaze burning in dense bush land north of Emu Mountain Rd.
Fire trucks were parked along Woodland Dr as the fire burned in the marsh area.
He said within the last 30 minutes, the fire had died down.
QFES assistant commissioner John Cawcutt said about 300 homes were saved overnight by the work of emergency services.
Unfortunately, one home reported to be on Plover Street was destroyed, and at least five others have suffered damage.
AC Cawcutt said about 100 firefighters and 35 vehicles were on the ground battling the blaze, and that number would be maintained and supported by aerial water bombing.
AC Cawcutt said he was very disappointed at unconfirmed reports police were speaking to a number of juveniles about how the blaze started.
"It's really unfortunate, we have had a number of unconfirmed reports over the last three or four days that there has been fires that have been started for no apparent reason, which only sort of leaves you that there could be some deliberate affect," he told the ABC.
"Its very disappointing, obviously QFES works very closesly with police but it's just gobsmacking people could be so irresponsible."
A FIXED-wing aircraft and three choppers will waterbomb the Peregian area bushfire today, but the Local Disaster Management Group chair said this is "not the magic wand".
Councillor Tim Dwyer confirmed one home had been reported destroyed by fire since the blaze broke out yesterday afternoon, and up to 10 properties had been impacted as damage assessments continue.
Cr Dwyer said emergency services had not had to rescue anyone from their homes, and the official approach was to proactively get people to "leave and leave early" through evacuations and doorknocks.
Cr Dwyer said last night up to 110 people sought refuge at the Coolum Beach Surf Club, but numbers dwindled as evacuees stayed with loved ones. He said the official evacuation centres at Nambour Showgrounds and Fisherman's Rd multi-sports complex in Maroochydore were both open and pet friendly.
At this time there is no estimate on how long the fire is expected to burn.
Cr Dwyer said the Sunshine Coast Local Disaster Coordination Centre had been in "full swing" since yesterday afternoon and would continue to coordinate with emergency personnel on the ground including firefighters, police and the State Emergency Service.
He said the key message for the public was safety.
"First and foremost if there is no critical reason for anyone to go near the firefront and danger zones please stay away, the fireys and Queensland police service need to be able to act quickly, effectively and safely"
FIREFIGHTERS were hoping to stop at Murdering Creek Road a raging bushfire now being pushed due north towards Sunshine Beach and Noosa Heads by straightening due southerly winds.
Acting Rural Fire Services area director Andrew Allan said water drops by helicopter were starting to do their job with support about to arrive from Sydney in the form of a water-carrying 727 aircraft.
Six helicopters each with a round a 3000 litre water carrying capacity have worked since first light to assist on-the-ground fire crews.
Mr Allan said the plan was to stop the fire at Murdering Creek but there were two fall-back lines after that which could be defended if needed.
The goal was to hold the blaze that has raged since around 5pm Monday before it can rip into the heavily populated Marcus Beach, Sunrise and Sunshine Beach communities.
Mr Allan said fire command had a lot of resources available again today with fresh teams swung in to replace those that had worked through the night.
Meanwhile residents have reported land lines and internet services were down in Peregian Springs making it difficult to keep track of unfolding events.
There is a back exit to Doonan Road from Peregian but that too become blocked depending on which way the fire next turned.
The NSW Rural Fire Service's Boeing 737 Large Air Tanker has just been approved to come and support firefighters battling the bushfire closing in on Marcus Beach.
The jet plane carries a 15,000L payload of water and fire retardant and flies at 850km/h when fully loaded.
Sources told the Daily it was understood to be about 45 minutes away from arriving and landing what is hoped will be a significant blow against the fire, before it hits tinder-dry national park near Marcus Beach.
Waterbombing helicopters are currently in action trying to douse the blaze before winds pick up again.
A critical hour is upon firefighting crews desperately working to protect homes in the region's north from a raging bushfire.
Winds are expected to whip up again in about an hour, leaving a small window of time for waterbombing aircraft to try and take as much heat out of the blaze, before it meets dry national park at Marcus Beach.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services public information officer Bevan McPherson said the next hour was important as crews worked to knock heat out of the fire before wind gusts pick up again.
The fire continues to move north/north-westerly and 37 crews were currently on the ground fighting to wrestle control of the blaze.
One aerial attack aircraft and another observation craft were in the area towards Marcus Beach and the bottom of Lake Weyba.
Mr McPherson said crews were trying to maintain control lines in and around houses on the east of the fire.
"The wind's due to pick up soon," he said.
Once the winds picked up it was understood there would be little that could be done other than to try and contain the fire to the national park.
There is plenty of dry fuel in the national park at present, making this morning's aerial operation vital to trying to limit the fire's impact on the communities of Marcus Beach and to the north.
Speaking from the incident control centre at Caloundra, Mr McPherson said a watch and act remains in place for residents in the Marcus Beach and Castaways Beach suburbs, while a warning was also out at the lower end of Marcus Beach.
He said officers were currently assessing Peregian Beach and there may be an opportunity for residents to return "later on today".
A number of firefighters have come up from Brisbane to support local crews battling the bushfire since it broke out yesterday.
About 120 Peregian residents retreated to Coolum Beach Surf Life Saving Club last night as flames bore down on their homes.
Coolum Beach SLSC club captain Mick Sell said the first wave arrived in the evening traffic, and then another inundation happened about 8pm, when emergency evacuations began.
"(They had) mixed emotions," Mr Sell said.
He said most were accommodated for the night at evacuation centres at Nambour Showgrounds and the Maroochydore Multi Sports Complex at Fishermans Road.
He advised people to head to those centres today if they evacuated, as the surf club would not be open.
Residents taking shelter in a Noosa evacuation centre are waking up not knowing the fate of their homes.
About 50 people who live around the fire zone crammed into The J, Noosa Heads this morning as farmers, bakers and producers brought in loads of donated goods.
SunCoast fresh manager Ben Green donated trays of fresh strawberries, bananas and fruit to those who took shelter over night.
The Peregian Springs man said while his home was not impacted, the fires brought back memories of devastating fires two years ago.
Children and elderly were among the crowd who flocked to fill their bellies with food as the wait for the fire zone to become safe.
Noosa Council community development manager Alison Hamblin hadn't slept since crowds started to flow in about 6.30pm.
About 350 people registered at the Noosa evacuation centre, which forced other buildings to open up.
Ms Hamblin said the generosity from the community had been amazing. She encouraged evacuees to stay with friends and family if possible, but to get out of there homes if they were under threat
Residents began pouring out of rural properties on Lake Weyba's south western boundary last night with those further north set to do so this morning as the fire front threatens to swing their way.
Access is only one-way in and out via Murdering Creek Road to the south and Eumarella Road to the north creating a vulnerable line of retreat.
Adam Woodhams said he was acutely aware the wind shift could push the fire front later today around the back side of the lake and directly towards his home.
After being up most of the night he was busily containing pets and packing valuables into cases so they could shift quickly if needed.
"I've told our daughter she's not going to school today," he said.
"We're on standby to leave but there's only one way out."
Maria Suarez evacuated her family to The J early in the evening after collecting her children from a swim trial at the new Saint Andrews School pool.
She spent the evening assisting Noosa Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie register people into the evacuation centre.
"We left early last night," she said. "My partner's gone back this morning to clean the gutters. If it goes west everyone has a lot of big gums on their properties.
"We've got the kids, the dogs and the horse. Anything else can be replaced."
She said when they left their home, they quickly found themselves in a line up of cars at the end of Murdering Creek Road waiting to be directed which way to go.
Police had gone from home to home knocking on doors, telling people to be ready to leave.
Ms Suarez said The J was overflowing last night with people arriving in sombre mood, some in tears and with distressed kids.
"Noosa residents began arriving offering beds," she said. "People were leaving with strangers to a comfortable bed. The community spirit was very high.
Acting police Superintendent Jason Overland said they were "talking to lots of people" regarding a fire which started in the Peregian area yesterday and is currently moving north.
He would not confirm the reports a number of teenagers were being questioned in relation to the fire.
"There's a lot going on at that fire front, although it is a priority the first priority is the safety of the people of the Sunshine Coast," he said.
Supt Overland said in the past 12 hours police had doorknocked homes, but they had not had to remove anyone forcibly.
"If we have to get to the point where we are removing people from their home we have lost the fight really," he said.
"The Sunshine Coast community are very on board, and looking after each other."
Energex has confirmed at least 1047 customers in Peregian and surrounds are without electricity this morning due to damage to the network and safety precautions.
Spokesman Danny Donald said they were directed to switch off power for the safety of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and locals.
Mr Donald said it is unknown when Energex crews will gain access to the area to start repairing the network as they, like the community, cannot enter the affected areas.
"Just for their own personal safety so it could be today, it could be tomorrow but at this stage we are at the behest of mother nature and this damn fire.
Changing weather conditions may see fires that ripped through Peregian last night swing to a new north west fire head and push towards Noosa's western suburbs as winds strengthen back to gusts of 50km/h from the southeast.
Acting Rural Fire Services area director Andrew Allan said water bombing would start today operating from a base at the Coolum Industrial estate.
He said wind would again be the big issue with the direction change creating fresh headaches for fire crews.
More than 10 homes have been confirmed lost with damage assessment now under way.
"It's going to be a very big day," Mr Allan said.
A huge force including 110 fire trucks, more than 300 fire fighters and other emergency response team worked through last night in conditions where winds were still gusting to 52km/h at midnight and 42km/h at 1.30am.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Harry Clark said moisture would slowly return to the atmosphere through the day, increasing from a low seven percent humidity in the lead up to yesterday's inferno, to more than 70 per cent by tonight.
Light south westerlies are blowing now from 17-22km/h, but would gust to more than 50 km/h.
Mr Allan said wind strength was the big issue.
Weyba Downs resident Adam Woodhams said he was preparing to evacuate if necessary.
He said the big fear for residents was that there was only one road in and out of the area.
Noosa mayor Tony Wellington said 17 people are doing damage assessment in the Peregian and Marcus Beach area to determine the impact of last night's fire on homes.
He confirmed one home had been severely damaged but awaited a further report as the blaze continues this morning in a north-westerly direction.
Cr Wellington said helicopter waterbombers would attempt to steer the fire away from built up areas rather than try to "contain it".
Cr Wellington said police were going door-to-door in the Verrierdale area asking people to leave.
He reminded people Noosa Council has opened the leisure centre in Wallace Park for evacuees, and the neighbouring library is an overflow area.
He said people affected can also go to Cooroy Library.
Police are speaking with a number of teenagers about the Peregian Springs bushfires, as officers investigate the cause of the blaze.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman confirmed police were questioning the juveniles this morning, but would not confirm the context of the investigation.
However a number of residents have commented on a local social media chat room, where two boys reportedly "admitted" to lighting the fires on Monday afternoon.
Those allegations have not been confirmed.
Tradies are lined up waiting to work on homes in Peregian Beach.
They're unsure whether they'll even get on site today, or what state the job site will be in.
Kev Abbott only had minutes left before he would've perished in a raging bushfire that's destroyed homes at Peregian Beach overnight.
Mr Abbott lives on David Low Way, next door to the Puma service station.
"The fire was coming over the road when I left," he said. "All I've got is what I'm in."
He evacuated to Sunshine Beach and then Yandina, and this morning was still waiting to learn whether his home had survived.
Neighbours said it appeared it had come through unscathed, but he wasn't sure until he could get back in.
Nearby Oriole Ave resident Adam Smith said the speed of the flames had been frightening.
"It just happened so quick," he said. "It just blew up."
He said an ember as "thick as a tree trunk" came flying and hit the road nearby, such was the ferocity of the blaze.
Mr Smith, who survived the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia on Boxing Day, was waiting to learn whether his shed full of valuables has survived.
He evacuated to his brother's house at Coolum. He said it was the most intense fire he'd seen in a long time living in Peregian Beach.
IGA Peregian Beach staff Ron and Michelle Schaad are among those waiting to see what is left of Peregian Beach this morning.
Ron, the meat manager at the store, and Michelle, have been parked up on the side of David Low Way for over an hour, unable to enter town to get to work.
A roadblock is in place at the Emu Mountain Rd and David Low Way roundabout, just metres from where homes are reported to have been destroyed on Lorikeet Drive.
It's understood a generator was brought in to keep power to the IGA, which lost power about 11pm last night.
Mr Schaad said he'd been told the local service station had also perished in the blaze, but that was unconfirmed by
Mr Schaad said he expected product would have to be thrown out as a result of the power outage, but couldn't know the extent of the loss until he could access the store.
Meanwhile a small firefront is burning close to Coolum Beach State High School, as cars begin to line the side of David Low Way.