FIRIES BLAZE OVER ‘ AR­SON’

Crews blast time- wasters for set­ting grass fires

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHRIS MCMA­HON chris. mcma­hon@ news. com. au

FIRE­BUGS are sus­pected of light­ing three grass fires around Townsville in the past week, putting lives at risk and ty­ing up emer­gency ser­vices.

Fires have been lit in parks and va­cant land in Oonoonba, Mount Louisa and Mund­ing­burra, blan­ket­ing the city in smoke and leav­ing large tracts of charred land.

High winds and tin­der- dry grass has helped fan the fires, which have quickly erupted into large blazes, ty­ing up valu­able Queens­land Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices re­sources.

QFES North­ern Area Com­man­der Mark McKen­zie said grass fires such as the one lit at Oonoonba on Sun­day, which flared up again yesterday, tied up crews for sev­eral hours.

“To us, that’s 4 ½ hours those crews were un­able to re­spond to some­thing where peo­ple may have had a greater need,” he said.

“The thing these peo­ple don’t re­alise is they may think they are light­ing an in­no­cent fire but if they get trapped in there, they are go­ing to get burned as well.”

Mr McKen­zie said there was a lot of dry tin­der around Townsville, which meant blazes could quickly flare out of con­trol.

“The con­di­tions at the mo­ment are dry,” he said.

“There’s no dew, no hu­mid­ity. With higher and dry winds, once a fire gets hold at the mo­ment, it will travel quite quickly along the ground.”

Mund­ing­burra Po­lice of­fi­cer- in- charge Se­nior Sergeant Graeme Pat­ter­son said peo­ple caught light­ing grass fires could be charged with ar­son or en­dan­ger­ing prop­erty by fire.

“The max­i­mum penalty ( for en­dan­ger­ing prop­erty by fire) is 14 years’ im­pris­on­ment and the max­i­mum penalty for ar­son is a life sen­tence,” SenSgt Pat­ter­son said.

“Fire is a very pow­er­ful force and it can get away from peo­ple and they won’t have any abil­ity to stop it once it’s gone.”

Fire is a very pow­er­ful force

and it can get away from peo­ple and they won’t have any abil­ity to stop it once it’s gone

SEN- SGT GRAEME PAT­TER­SON

Pic­ture: FIONA HARD­ING

DRY CON­DI­TIONS: QFES North­ern Area Com­man­der Mark McKen­zie at the site of grass fires on Ab­bott St.

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