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Wet season bushfires blanketing Queensland

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The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) is monitoring dozens of bushfires that are burning across Queensland, despite the wet season being underway.

Properties have been destroyed and hundreds of residents evacuated. The worst of the bushfires, 450km north of Brisbane, destroyed at least two properties and damaged four more, while a 50km long fire has burned through about 11,000 hectares in the Deepwater National Park.

“We are seeing unprecedented weather conditions, with extremely dry conditions, low humidity and very high temperatures,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford has declared a disaster for the Gladstone region, including the areas of Baffle Creek Catchment, Wartburg, Deepwater, Agnes Water, Round Hill, Miriam Vale and Bororen.

“These areas are under severe threat of fire or have already been hit by fire and the disaster declaration will ensure that the necessary agencies, including fire and emergency services and police, have the powers they need to respond effectively,” he said.

“This includes giving police the power to forcibly remove residents and to stop them returning to their homes until it is completely safe.”

The Insurance Council of Australia told the situation is being closely monitored.

A spokeswoman says fewer than 10 properties have been destroyed in total, but there are further losses for outbuildings.

Experts have warned that climate change will likely lead to increasingly severe bushfire conditions, and year-round fire seasons.

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre’s outlook for southern Australia says most of Australia’s east coast is set for an above-normal fire risk this summer as vast areas of the country continue to suffer severe drought.

The centre's CEO Richard Thornton told that there is always "an amount of variability" in fire seasons.

"But research is showing that fire seasons are lengthening to the extent that we are now seeing a year round fire season in Australia," he said.

"This means we need to change the way we think about bushfire. The challenges are complex. We have learnt much through science, but there is still more to do. We must continue to ask the difficult questions and be prepared for complex answers.”