THE heat is intense. The smoke overwhelming. Few truly understand the ferocity of a huge fire.
But as Sunshine Coast residents anxiously watched firefighters from across the region battle a blaze which threatened homes and ultimately lives, they grew in their appreciation of what our firefighters are up against.
Into the night, more than 80 firefighters, many of them volunteers, formed a shield around Coolum and Peregian Beach areas under threat.
Throughout the afternoon, they had battled gusty winds, the threat of a gas depot going up in flames, and the potential loss of buildings in an industrial estate.
The blaze broke out in national park bushland about 1.45pm.
By late afternoon, wind gusts and 'spot overs', had made it virtually impossible to put out.
The fire broke containment lines in the national park and then later jumped over the Sunshine Motorway.
By 4.25pm, police had declared an emergency situation, giving them the power to order people out of the area.
Police and other emergency service personnel were assisting people with evacuations on Arcoona Road and Doonan Bridge Road.
Many locals were grateful for the efforts of those going house to house, warning them of the impending danger.
For residents, it is always a tough call.
Should I stay and fight to protect my home or just go?
Such a terrifying scenario is such a stark reminder to us all to have an emergency fire plan.
In the end, the choice is clear, a home can be replaced. People can't.
But you can understand those who believe dousing their home with water might be the best strategy, depending on the severity of the fire.
The reality, though, is fire situations, as we saw yesterday, can change so quickly.
Years ago, as a young reporter, we covered a fire racing one up Mt Coolum only to see wind directions change and come back to where people had been gathering to stay away from the fire.
On another occasion, I parked my car well above a fire which behind Kunda Park after checking with firefighters.
The wind direction changed and as I scrambled to move my car, the engine would not start. The fire had sucked all the oxygen out of the engine. Luckily, someone was able to help me get it started again and out of the way.
We've seen huge fires rip through the area from Sunshine Beach to Noosa.
Living surrounded by bushland is a beautiful thing, until the sky lights up in that awful amber.
Each time, our firefighters, both paid and volunteer, put in incredible efforts to ensure our safety.
This morning, many in Coolum and Peregian Beach will be waking up with a greater sense of thankfulness for their efforts.
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