Sydney fire conditions ease as arson investigation continues

Published: 16 April 2018

fires

The fires, which began in Casula on Saturday, have ravaged nearly 2,500 hectares of land, with residents of Voyager Point, Pleasure Point, Sandy Point, Alfords Point, Barden Ridge, Illawong, Menai and Bangor all being warned to stay on alert.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has alerted residents the fire is moving in a southerly direction towards Barden Ridge, and Heathcote Road remains closed between Macarthur Drive and New Illawarra Road.

John Ross, Coordinator for Fixed Hose Post 8, a volunteer community group on Landy Close, Menai, has been at the forefront of the fires and battled to save homes in the area.

Mr Ross said the group was “contained to their area”, and worked differently to other volunteer organisations.

“Our area of operation is mainly property protection, we don’t go into the bush, but we water down to stop the flames coming up,” he said.

The group has been on alert since the fires began on Saturday, with Mr Ross describing it as a “wait-and-see game” as warnings began to be issued by authorities.

“We knew it was going to come, we just didn’t know when,” he said.

“We were watching the plumes of smoke in the air, and we were lucky enough that we were all here in one spot.

“We just started watering down, and the fire came directly at us, and then went to the left-hand side down the street, and on the right-hand side down the street, so it hit on three fronts.”

Mr Ross said this was the “most ferocious” event the group had faced, but they managed to save all the houses in their street.

“We’re skilled in using the equipment and we’re confident in each other, and we knew we had the support of Rural Fire,” he said.

“I’m chuffed with the result, great camaraderie, and I think because we had the confidence in each other, and knew that we had the support from Fire and Rescue, that turned up once the fire hit, it was great.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said “critical” back burning operations had been underway in the Holsworthy Army range area to secure the south-western corner of the fires and on Heathcote Road at Pleasure Point.

But the security of the southern edge of the fire, which extends from the south of Menai, through Barden Ridge and Alfords Point until to Heathcote Road, will be biggest operation for crews today and into the night.

“Lots of firefighters are still very active, whether it is the implementation of back burning activities, or indeed still very actively patrolling streets to look at flare ups, look at embers, which are still coming out of some of the smoky and still burning fire grounds.

Acting Commander Paul Albury, of the Liverpool City Police Area Command, said Strike Force Carpi, which has been set up to investigate how the fire began, has determined it ignited at about 2.45pm on Saturday, in the Leacock Regional Park.

“The area where we believe the fire commenced has been forensically examined, I can say that we have taken a number of statements from people who had called the police and fire services in regards to the fire, we have canvassed for CCTV footage, and we have also canvassed all the areas around Leacock Regional Park,” Commander Albury said.

The RFS and authorities have warned that while the fires have been easing, changes in conditions could see winds increase fanning the blaze to flare up later this afternoon.