Arson suspected in Augusta blaze

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
VideoOut of more than 3,000 fires last summer, at least 1,200 were suspicious

Arson is again suspected after a major blaze that threatened Augusta’s Leeuwin Lighthouse.

The fire was detected last Thursday night, with the region’s volunteer firefighters pointing to illegal campfires as the likely cause of the bushfire.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions confirmed an arson investigation was under way as the agency asked anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers.

“(The) recent fire in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is under investigation, with evidence suggesting it may have been sparked by an illegally lit campfire in the nearby Waterwheel carpark,” a spokeswoman said.

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“Firefighters from Augusta and Margaret River volunteer brigades and Parks and Wildlife Service worked throughout the night under extreme conditions to protect the high conservation values and to hold the fire from crossing Quarry Bay Road and potentially threatening Augusta.

“Protecting communities is our top priority. Remember, little sparks can turn into big fires.”

Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade went to the incident and later called for witnesses.

It follows the brigade’s previous warnings about foolish behaviour by campers, with a blaze threatening Augusta’s West Bay area last January also suspected to have been caused by campers.

A brigade spokesman said it was not the first bushfire sparked by illegal campfires, with a fire near Kilcarnap “smack bang in the middle of the Cape(-to-Cape) Track”.

“One wayward ember with the night wind and it could have ignited kilometres of bush directly towards the sleeping residents of Kilcarnup,” he said.

“Zero effort to either contain it or extinguish it, with hot coals and sand still ... burning hot the following day.”

He said the Leeuwin blaze suggested “a campfire gone wrong, resulting in a dangerous fire that very nearly burned significant historical sites and could have impacted the town of Augusta”.

“This is a reminder that it’s illegal to light campfires outside of designated areas in the national park,” the spokesman said.

Despite recent rain, residents should remember a restricted burning period is in force until May 12. “A courtesy call to your local fire-control officer would be appreciated,” the brigade noted.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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