Meet the everyday heroes on the frontline


VETERAN volunteer firefighters Cathie Hodge, Jenny Swanson and Toni Melrose are the stoic face of resistance of Queensland's last line of defence as the state faces a scorching week of fire weather.

The three women join thousands of firefighters across the state who are ­bracing for the worst as a heatwave bakes Queensland and the very high fire danger is made worse by strong winds with no significant rain in sight.

Ms Hodge, 67, of Tallebudgera Valley, Ms Swanson, 65, from Mt Marrow, and Ms Melrose, 57, of Oxenford and a team of firefighters on hand at Boonah, southwest of Brisbane, ready to respond to fire emergencies in the Darling Downs and the Granite Belt at a ­moment's notice.

Rural firefighters Cathie Hodge, 67, Jenny Swanson, 65, and Toni Melrose, 57. Picture: Liam Kidston
Rural firefighters Cathie Hodge, 67, Jenny Swanson, 65, and Toni Melrose, 57. Picture: Liam Kidston

It comes as the Palaszczuk Government considers buying a C-130 Hercules fire­fighting tanker to help fireproof the state.

Meanwhile, the immediate fire threat continues to climb with the temperatures.


Forecasters are tipping maximums across the south of the state to crack 40C later in the week in some areas, including the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim. Friday is expected to be the worst.

Severe fire dangers remain in place for five districts - the South-East Coast, Darling Downs, Wide Bay and Burnett, Capricornia and the Central Highlands districts.

Brisbane of Meteorology meteorologist David Crock said yesterday's weather was a repeat of the conditions seen four or five times since the fire season started in September.

"That combination of hot, dry and windy weather is the worst fire weather that we see, so the fire agencies and firefighters are certainly up against it today," Mr Crock said.

"Unfortunately, the ­climate outlook doesn't point in the direction (of rain), suggesting drier than ever conditions, certainly in December and probably extending into January as well."

The Gold and Sunshine Coasts can expect temperatures to reach the mid-30s.



"Over the next few days the winds do drop off a little bit, but it is very hot and very dry so fire dangers will remain generally very high for the next several days in Southern Queensland," Mr Crock said.

Conditions should ease today and tomorrow, but will increase to severe again on Thursday.

Yesterday's Narangba blaze is believed to have been sparked by a power pole.

Hayden Goodchild and his partner Elizabeth Anderson, whose property was used as a base for firefighters, said the blaze came within metres of their home on Raynbird Rd yesterday afternoon.

"It pretty much started down the bottom corner from a power pole - it's the second time this year," Mr Goodchild said.

"It started here and burnt up to the neighbours as well - it was lapping right on to their shed."

A state-of-the-art firefighting plane could soon be on hand to help with Minister for Emergency Services Craig Crawford crunching the numbers to add a tanker to Queensland's arsenal of firefighting aircraft, at the request of the Premier.

"She had specifically stated a C-130 Hercules so we've done some modelling around that," he said. "Obviously decisions around what Queensland does in that space is a matter for cabinet, but we have done the numbers on what it would cost."

Mr Crawford said estimates range between $30 million and $60 million, for either an outright purchase of the aircraft or long-term lease during fire seasons.

The NSW Rural Fire Service purchased a 737 Large Air Tanker at the start of this year's bushfire season.

The aircraft can drop 15,000 litres of water or fire retardant and travels at 850km/hr, allowing it to reach all of NSW within an hour.

Queensland has borrowed it multiple times this year.



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