Coalfields residents urged to stay vigilant following spate of deliberately-lit bushfires

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

DELIBERATE: The Abermain bushfire, which tore through 800 hectares last month, was the work of an arsonist. Picture: Marina Neil.RESIDENTS in known arsonist hot zones throughout the Lower Hunter have been urged to keep an eye on suspicious activity amid concerns that Friday’s forecasted heatwave could become a day too good for firebugs to refuse.
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Authorities are convinced it was “more than just mere coincidence” that bushfires have erupted around the Coalfields towns surrounding Kurri Kurri during “perfect” bushfire weather including high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.

There was a collective sigh of relief for investigators on Thursday when four fire experts from the RuralFire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW were able to confirm that the blaze which ripped through about 20 hectares near Luxford during the heatwave conditions on Wednesdaywas sparked by an earthing wire from a power pole in bushland.

But as firefighters got the upper hand on the Loxford fire on Wednesday night, some crews were forced to rush to the Hunter Economic Zone to put out a blaze believed to have started from fireworks.

It follows a series of blazes, including last month’s 800-hectare inferno which threatened properties around Abermain and Neath, being confirmed as deliberately-lit.

It is understood Central Hunter police have identified suspects but have remained unable to lay charges because of a lack of evidence.

And no one has ever beencharged with the spate of fires around Kurri Kurri five years ago, where an arsonist is believed to have sparked at least 60 blazes in one summer including several which threatened properties.

“We always ask residents to stay vigilant,’’ RFS Lower Hunter zone manager Superintendent Jayson McKellar said.

“And with the heatwave conditions predicted, we urge people that if they see something they think is suspicious, that just doesn’t look right, then contact authorities.’’

A total fire ban has been declared across parts of NSW, including the Greater Hunter area, on Friday with temperatures predicted to soar into the 40-degree celsius range.

Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector George Radmore said rural crime investigators were continuingto look into the spate of deliberately-lit blazes, including the massive Abermain fire.

“These fires do not light themselves,’’ Detective Inspector Radmore said.

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