Rains dampen bushfire on Australia’s Fraser Island but danger not over

(Reuters) – Heavy rains overnight have partly doused a large bushfire on a World Heritage-listed Australian island, but authorities warned on Tuesday the danger was not over with hot, dry and windy weather likely to re-fuel flames.

The rainfall broke a days-long heatwave on Fraser Island, a popular tourist destination, helping temper a large blaze that has been burning for almost two months, razing around half the island famous for its tropical rainforest and inland lakes.

The deluge doused flames that were threatening the island’s Happy Valley township. Around half the town’s 50 residents were evacuated, while the other half stayed to help fight the fire.

Travel to the island off the Queensland coast, home to around 200 people, is restricted to local residents, essential service providers and emergency services.

The Queensland state fire department said the fire continued to burn in several locations on Tuesday morning and urged people to limit their movements to within close proximity of their homes.

The Bureau of Meteorology said it expects hot, dry and windy weather conditions on the island for the next two days.

“There is a southeasterly wind change that moves through the island around midnight tonight and that will increase winds quite a bit … certainly making battling those fires harder,” bureau meteorologist Pieter Claassen said.

Fraser Island, also known by its indigenous name K’gari, is the world’s largest sand island.

Australia is entering its peak annual bushfire season. More than 24 million hectares (59 million acres) of the country’s wilderness was razed by wildfires last summer, killing 33 people and billions of native animals, a disaster that Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Australia’s “black summer”.