Fireys suspect arson after blaze

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
An aerial scene of Monday’s blaze.
Camera IconAn aerial scene of Monday’s blaze. Credit: Brad Bourke

Police and emergency services are asking anyone who might have information about a suspicious bushfire on Monday’s Australia Day public holiday to come forward.

Arson was suspected in the blaze in heavy bush off Crouch Road, near Rosa Brook.

Firefighters familiar with the incident said the cause of the fire wasn’t known, but signs pointed to a potential firebug — and the incident could have easily become a major emergency.

The fire started on Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions land early on Monday morning, 14km south-east of Rosa Brook.

Parks and Wildlife crews quickly got the fire under control with the help of air support and a big contingent, including bulldozers and 10 fire trucks loaded with more than 20 fireys.

After the fire was contained, Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade said it was lucky the incident wasn’t worse.

“Scary scenes from the sky this morning,” the brigade posted online.

“Sadly, the cause of the fire appears to be deliberate, the police arson squad have been notified and an investigation has commenced.

“This fire got to 4ha before it was safely contained at 1330 hours today.

“Had the weather conditions been worse and not detected early, this fire had significant potential.”

Wallcliffe, which did not attend the fire, said no prescribed burning had occurred in that area during the past eight years and fuel loads were dangerous.

“This is a fantastic example of how rapid detection and response by Parks and Wildlife, coupled with the support of aerial suppression, can effectively stop fires from escalating,” the brigade said.

“It’s also a timely reminder that water bombers alone can’t put fires out — you still need the ground crews to deal with the fire.

“Next time, the circumstance could be devastating for local lives, property, the wine and tourism industry, and the plants and animals of our forests.”

WA Police said anyone in the vicinity at the time of the fire, and anyone who saw “any suspicious activity, persons or vehicles” was asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at crimestopperswa.

“Rewards of up to $50,000 are available for information that leads to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of an arsonist,” officers said.

Augusta-Margaret River State Emergency Service helped with water bomber reloading.

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