Capital help for parks in bushfire season

The ACT strike team. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

Rangers and rural firefighters from Canberra have joined forces with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers to combat bushfires raging in national parks and state forests.

This marks the first time that the QPWS has received direct support from another state, enhancing its firefighting capabilities and bolstering efforts to protect Queensland’s protected areas.

The ACT strike team, consisting of seven ACT Parks and Conservation Service rangers and four ACT Rural Fire Service volunteer firefighters, arrived in Brisbane on Saturday morning.

They have now teamed up with QPWS, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and local landholders to battle fires and initiate recovery operations, wherever possible, in Girraween National Park.

The Canberra team brings with them invaluable experience in fire management specific to protected areas, including skills in aerial surveying, advanced firefighting techniques, mapping, and heavy-plant operations.

QPWS South West Acting Regional Director Rachel Chesher said Queensland rangers were incredibly grateful for the additional support from Canberra.

“Rangers have been working tirelessly with our partners to fight fires from the southwest to the far north, and our response continues to contain these blazes,” Ms Chesher said.

“Across Queensland, more than 400 thousand hectares of protected area has been burnt so far this fire season, which could have been much worse if not for our extensive Statewide planned burn program and the dedication of our rangers.

“QPWS conducted more than 530 fuel reduction burns and other fuel reduction or hazard mitigation treatments across the state, including an additional 100 burns compared to last year.

The arrival of the ACT team will provide some much-needed respite for local crews who have been tirelessly responding to fires, while also assisting in safeguarding Queensland’s environmentally and culturally significant regions.

QPWS expressed its gratitude towards several entities, including QFES, DAF, RFS, and landholders, who have assisted in the fire response efforts.

Between August and October, QPWS responded to 210 bushfires in Queensland, with 188 impacting protected areas.

ACT Parks and Conservation Service Director of Fire Operations Christian Bihlmaier said the ACT strike team was geared up to support rangers where needed in the ongoing response to these fires.

“In the ACT we have a window where we’re not as dry as our surroundings, so it’s a good opportunity to deploy our staff and help other agencies out,” Mr Bihlmaier said.

Recent rainfall has provided some relief for QPWS, allowing rangers to assess fire damage in certain protected areas through patrols and fire scar mapping.

The ACT personnel will aid in these operations and are expected to continue supporting QPWS until the end of the week.

National parks in affected areas remain closed or partially closed due to current or recent fires.