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Fraser Island has been on fire for 7 weeks and it seems all too familiar

For nearly 2 months, an aggressive fire has been blazing through Fraser Island, wiping out almost half of the heritage-listed location.

Although it was announced back in September that this Australian summer is set to bring more rainfall and cyclones than usual, the catastrophic fires on Fraser Island (K’gari) suggest otherwise.

The world-heritage listed and ecologically valuable island saw residents along the east coast evacuate yesterday as fires moved “dangerously close” to Happy Valley.

queensland fire
Photograph: Twitter, Queensland Ambulance

It seems like these fires have literally come out of nowhere, but in reality, Fraser Island has been on fire for nearly 7 weeks. The flames were allegedly sparked from an illegal campfire, spreading for nearly 34 days before the Queensland Government decided to bring out their 15 million dollar water-bombing aircraft.

The delay of the water bombers has been heavily questioned by the public as their acquisition back in September was said to help better prepare and “ensure our communities are protected”, as mentioned by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. The water bomber was also assured by the premier to protect Queenslanders as it can travel within “one hour of receiving a call out”. 

The fire has since destroyed around 80,000 hectares – approximately 42% of the entire island.

The images are chillingly similar to the 2019/20 bushfires, which destroyed 17 million hectares and 3,000 homes, impacting 3 billion animals.

Fraser Island fire
Image: Blake Antrobus

In an ABC update last night, it was reported that the town of Happy Vally had been spared in an extremely close call. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Brian Cox confirmed that although the town’s homes and houses were saved: “the biggest concern…is the fact that there are still fires that we can’t get to…so with the change in wind conditions and embers, they may light up in unpredictable areas”. 

Premier Palaszczuk states: “K’gari is beloved not just here but all around the world, which makes the sight of its burning so painful”. 

The Queensland Government has ordered a full review of the bushfire due to backlash from the public and tourists criticising the response for being too slow and poorly managed.

The review is set to examine the preparedness and response to the burn, holding government departments accountable for any poor management. It will also be engaging closely with Indigenous fire management processes and the traditional owners of the Island.