RED ALERT: Fire officer Trevor Kidd gives directions to crews as they backburn behind homes in Forbes Avenue, Frenchville on Saturday night.
RED ALERT: Fire officer Trevor Kidd gives directions to crews as they backburn behind homes in Forbes Avenue, Frenchville on Saturday night. Megan Lewis

Heroes praised, arson fears rise

IT was a miraculous effort that only one house was lost on a wildfire weekend in Rockhampton, but a suspected arsonist has fuelled community anger.

Bushfires on Rockhampton's outskirts destroyed a Poinciana Street home on Saturday, dozens more suffered minor damage and hundreds of families were forced to evacuate on a weekend of high drama across the district.

At 10pm last night hundreds of dwellings had been saved by the skill, devotion and courage of a small army of exhausted firefighters, police and desperate home owners.

The city and surrounding communities remain on high alert with no let-up expected today and the temperature expected to be above 30 degrees again.

While no-one was letting their guard down last night there was a sense of relief.

Earlier in the day, fire authorities had braced for a horrid time with strong winds making for nightmare conditions.

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Rockhampton bushfire

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QFRS Assistant Commissioner for the central region Neil Gallant had said conditions were the worst the region had seen.

More than 100 houses were evacuated in the Shields Avenue area at the foot of the Berserker Ranges.

By late yesterday afternoon authorities were letting people return to their home believing the worst was over for the day.

But fuelling anger were reports of deliberately lit fires in the region.

Rockhampton Regional Council Mayor Brad Carter said he'd come across a number of suspicious fires.

And the fires are set to become a hot political issue after Member for Mirani Ted Malone last night said a lot of the heartache could have been avoided if a fire plan, drawn up some years ago, had been put in place.

The Morning Bulletin could not contact a spokesperson for the Environment Minister late last night.

Acting Premier Andrew Fraser said it was remarkable more homes had not been lost. “There is every reason for all of us to be hugely grateful for the fantastic efforts of the fire service and the volunteers in Central Queensland,” he said.

“It is a miracle that more homes weren't lost.”

It was a huge effort from the 150 firefighters in the city.

Yesterday they were tormented by spot fires throughout the day.

On Saturday the fire in the Berserker Ranges took a turn for the worse about 2.30pm affecting the Frenchville, Koongal and Lakes Creek areas and sparking multiple evacuations.

There were fears up to six horses may have been burnt as a fire with towering flames raced across a large paddock at Cooper Street. The bridge at the Teys Brothers meatworks at Nerimbera was reported to be on fire at 5.50pm.

Reinforcements have been sent from Brisbane to help the exhausted firefighters.

Power was last night expected to be restored to most of the Cooper Street homes as Ergon crews worked hard all weekend.

Police yesterday closed Emu Park Road at the Cawarral Road and Nerimbera School Road intersections, and Yeppoon Road between Norman Road and Cawarral Road.

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