Australia’s bushfire threatens the group on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island By Reuters

© Reuters. An aerial view shows bushfires on Fraser Island

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Residents of a coastal community on the world heritage site of Fraser Island, Australia, were told to evacuate Sunday when a bushfire approached.

Since it was started by an illegal campfire seven weeks ago, the fire has blackened half of the island off the northeast coast of Australia, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef and is famous for its tropical rainforest on sand dunes and inland lakes.

Happy Valley residents had a little break after the fire waned on Sunday afternoon, Queensland state rescue commissioner Greg Leach told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“We don’t now expect this fire to enter the Happy Valley settlement today, but we will continue to work hard,” said Leach.

“We will continue to have planes in the fire tomorrow from the first light to try to put down the fire as best we can.”

Officials said Fraser Island had more than 90 employees, 38 vehicles and 17 planes, including a large air tanker stationed in the state for the bushfire season and another tanker en route from New South Wales.

Queensland emergency services asked residents to evacuate late Sunday afternoon.

“Leaving immediately is the safest option as driving will soon be too dangerous,” the state’s fire and rescue service said on social media. “Anyone near the Happy Valley community should leave the area.”

The baking temperatures in Queensland last week caused peak conditions in the bushfire. Emergency services are currently handling 48 fires, Leach said.

Australia has seen hotter and longer summers. Last season was dubbed “Black Summer” by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as unusually long and intense bushfires burned nearly 12 million acres, killing 33 people and an estimated 1 billion animals.

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