From The Australian - Journalist Charlie Peel @charliepeeled
Read the original article here:
The guests, staff and horses at Mount Barney Lodge in the forested foothills of its namesake on the Queensland-NSW border had been evacuated and only one man remained at the usually bustling eco retreat on Wednesday afternoon.
Lodge owner Innes Larkin was busy preparing the 12ha property for the approaching bushfire burning northwards through the surrounding national park, blanketing the mountainous landscape in thick smoke.
Mr Larkin was prepared to fight the blaze himself but said he would evacuate if firefighters told him to go. High temperatures and gusty winds, which regularly
changed direction, had firefighters in the Scenic Rim region, 100km southwest of Brisbane, fearing the worst on Wednesday.
“I’ve got an alarm set for every two hours so I can keep an eye on it,” Mr Larkin said. “It’s not unusual for fires but what we’ve got now is unprecedented.
“It’s the cumulative effect of that drought and weather.”
One of the old farmhouses on the property, which serves as the office and Larkin family home, had a sprinkler placed on its roof in a desperate bid to save it if the fire made it on to the retreat.
“The ultimate hope is if we can save this one and other buildings go, we can still operate, we can still do our activities,” Mr Larkin said.
“That’s the worst-case scenario. If I can save that house, it would solve a whole heap of issues going forward.”
Mr Larkin spent hours this week gathering dozens of trees felled during a recent storm into piles away from buildings.
Resort staff were sent home on Tuesday and guest bookings cancelled when the approaching threat became clear.
Mr Larkin said national park rangers were under-resourced to conduct proper hazard-reduction burns and were also impacted by a reduced window of opportunity for preventive burning.
He is a member of a local apolitical group of business owners calling on the Scenic Rim Regional Council to declare a “climate emergency” and bristled at the suggestion his thoughts were more aligned with “inner-city greenies” than people in rural communities.
The nearby town of Boonah, between the region’s three main firefronts, is the epicentre of firefighting activity; a staging ground, command post and, potentially, evacuation centre. The Spicers Peak Lodge, also in the Scenic Rim region, was evacuated on Wednesday morning after a wind change pushed a bushfire towards it.
A third fire continued to burn towards rural Rosevale.
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen, whose own rural property was among those on fire on Friday night, said the immensity of the firefront was unprecedented. “We’ve all seen bushfires, but not on this scale.
“On a rough calculation … it’s a firefront of 95km. To see the way the fire has moved rapidly across that ground, and without flinching, has been quite perturbing.”
Mr Christensen said authorities were concerned a southeasterly wind change would send the fire burning around Mount Barney towards populated areas.
Picture: Glenn Hunt. Mount Barney Lodge owner Innes Larkin carrying out hazard reduction before the oncoming bushfire.