Police probe into ‘illegal’ campfire issue
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.
The firefighters who tackled the blaze.