A fire threatens Aura and Bells Reach.Residents were evacuated from Aura.
A fire threatens Aura and Bells Reach.Residents were evacuated from Aura. John McCutcheon

Massive blaze, fireballs, has firies battling before winds hit

FORECASTERS tipped the Coast would be transformed into a tinderbox as a winter heatwave struck and the accuracy of that prediction was evident in apocalyptic scenes as fireballs erupted.

The blaze which swept through bushland near Caloundra, threatening homes and business and forcing evacuations, was sparked alongside the Bruce Hwy at Meridan Plains just before 2pm yesterday.

Brendan West was in his backyard and noticed the first smoke plumes rising.

Within minutes it had transformed into a roaring inferno, barrelling across dry earth, sending flames licking up green trees, which were crackling ablaze seconds later.


Mr West described seeing "fireball after fireball" hurtle out of the firefront, sending a wall of flames he estimated to be seven storeys high into the sky, in what was the "most intense" grassfire he'd ever seen on the Sunshine Coast.

"It went up so quick," Mr West said.

"There was fireball after fireball about seven storeys high."

Fanned by blustery winds, the blaze continued east, headed towards the Aura estate.

Businesses at the nearby Sunshine Coast Industrial Park were evacuated, and bush and building were hosed down in preparation of an assault to protect property.

As evacuations were called for in Aura, waterbombers began to take the fight up to the blaze, supporting the 80-plus firefighters, more than 35 units, on the ground.

The McDermott Aviation waterbombers drew water from the Sunshine Coast Turf Club and dumped heavily on the flames, pushed for time, with nightfall approaching quickly.

Further evacuations were called for as the blaze shifted north-east, crossed Bells Creek Arterial Rd and closed in on Bellvista estate and properties around Little Mountain.

An evacuation centre was opened up at Lake Kawana Community Centre, and about 25 families had sought refuge there by about 8pm last night.

As of 9.30pm last night the bulk of the ground crews were still working to bring the blaze under control and preserve property in the Little Mountain and Bellvista areas.

An expected wind change had crews on edge, and they were at the mercy of that wind, which could prove dangerous, with Weatherzone predicting south-westerly winds reaching up to nearly 40km/h today.

A Fire Service spokesman said the threat had lessened slightly last night.

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