Ar­son feared in spate of fires

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - SA­MAN­THA HEALY sa­man­tha. healy@ news. com. au Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Chris McMa­hon

AU­THOR­I­TIES fear fire­bugs are re­spon­si­ble for a se­ries of blazes across the city.

The lat­est in a string of fires, which burned in bush at Bur­dell for more than three hours and forced the clo­sure of North Shore Boule­vard yes­ter­day, is be­lieved to have started by a car that was set alight.

It comes af­ter crews re­sponded to 15 veg­e­ta­tion fires in Rasmussen, Con­don and Kelso last week, in­clud­ing eight fires in seven hours on Thurs­day.

Po­lice have been check­ing CCTV cam­eras in the area.

Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice north­ern re­gion bushfire safety of­fi­cer Gor­don Yorke said the fires were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

“It is school hol­i­days and there have been some re­ports of kids run­ning from some of those af­fected ar­eas,” he said.

“We are urg­ing res­i­dents to keep an eye out for sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity in their lo­cal ar­eas.”

Most con­cern­ing is the prox­im­ity of homes to the grass­land and bush in the area.

He said it was “un­usual” for fire­fight­ers to at­tend one lo­ca­tion and then be called to another fire with mul­ti­ple ig­ni­tion points nearby.

“We are con­cerned. We didn’t have a wet sea­son, and an El Nino pat­tern has been con­firmed, so we are look­ing at be­low av­er­age rain­fall and warmer tem­per­a­tures,” he said.

“The grasses are al­most fully cured, the fuel is dry and if we get a warm day with low hu­mid­ity and winds, a fire will move quickly. We are … look- ing at a po­ten­tially busy and early start to the fire sea­son.”

Fire crews were sent across the city on Thurs­day with two small grass fires near Cur­ra­wong St at Con­don at 4.20pm.

Eight min­utes later, two more grass fires were sparked at Charles Moroney Park at Kelso. An hour later, crews were called to a veg­e­ta­tion fire near Stephanie St, Rasmussen.

A small fire was also ex­tin­guished near Stephanie St, Rasmussen soon af­ter. An in­dus­trial bin was set alight on Res­o­lu­tion St, Rasmussen around 8pm. And a ve­hi­cle was set alight off South Beck Rd about 11pm on Thurs­day.

Wood­lands Fire Sta­tion of­fi­cer Phillip McIn­tosh said no prop­er­ties were un­der threat in yes­ter­day’s blaze, with back­burn­ing keep­ing it con­tained.

“We had two ur­ban and three ru­ral crews here help­ing to put the flames out. There were no prop­er­ties un­der threat at any stage,” he said.

Mr Yorke urged par­ents to talk to their chil­dren about fire safety and en­sure their fam­ily bushfire plan was in place.

“Our mes­sage is sim­ple: This fire sea­son, if you see some­thing, know some­thing, say some­thing,” he said.

Ru­ral fire­fight­ers con­tain a grass fire at Bur­dell yes­ter­day.

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