Po­lice probe into ‘il­le­gal’ camp­fire is­sue

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Times News - War­ren Hately

Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether a bush­fire which tore through Au­gusta’s West­bay area on Mon­day night was sparked by an il­le­gal camp­fire.

The fire started about 1pm, fanned by 50km/h winds, burn­ing ei­ther side of Bussell High­way at the main ac­cess to Au­gusta near the West­bay Re­treat Car­a­van Park.

In re­cent weeks, Shire brigades have railed on so­cial me­dia against “mup­pets” be­hind a string of il­le­gal camp­fires, and fire­fight­ers said wind con­di­tions and the re­cent spate of camp­fires al­ready had vol­un­teers on edge.

Depart­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices per­son­nel and Au­gusta-Mar­garet River Shire vol­un­teer brigades poured into the area at the first re­port of dan­ger, backed up by wa­ter bombers that res­i­dents said saved numer­ous homes at the last minute.

West­bay prop­erty owner Mike Do­herty crossed the river and de­fended his prop­erty with the help of neigh­bours. He said around 5pm on Mon­day the res­i­dents were caught in a “fire storm”.

“I thought we’d lost the place, but the wa­ter bomber came through right then. They saved the place,” he said.

WA Po­lice said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der way.

Numer­ous sources pointed to an al­leged il­le­gal camp­fire in bush near the creek be­hind West­bay Re­treat Car­a­van Park as the sus­pected cause of the blaze.

Fire­fight­ers at the scene said it was the big­gest fire brigades had at­tended in re­cent years, with crews also on alert be­cause of high winds and mem­o­ries of the 2011 blaze which de­stroyed more than 50 prop­er­ties af­ter a Govern­ment­con­trolled burn went awry.

Brigades saved a vi­tal bridge cross­ing as well as numer­ous homes.

Lost to the blaze was a va­cant his­toric farmhouse as well as sheds and sev­eral ve­hi­cles.

Vol­un­teers said the dam­age could’ve been much worse and thick bush and melaleu­cas made the area a po­ten­tial dis­as­ter risk now and into the fu­ture.

Shire bush­fire con­trol of­fi­cer David Hol­land was lav­ish in his praise of lo­cal troops who bat­tled through the night and even­tu­ally built con­tain­ment lines around the 80ha fire burn­ing in fe­ro­cious pock­ets.

“We are so very for­tu­nate to have such a pro­fes­sional and com­mit­ted fire brigade mem­ber­ship both lo­cally and in the sur­round­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas,” he said.

Res­i­dents are urged to dis­con­nect gut­ters and al­low rain­fall to flush roofs to avoid residue from ash and re­tar­dant used in Mon­day’s in­ci­dent.

Con­tact the Shire on 9780 5255 for more in­for­ma­tion.

Pic­tures: Sean Block­sidge

The fire­fight­ers who tack­led the blaze.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.