River fire warning

WORKING HARD: Fire officers extinguish a blaze along the bank of the Macquarie River on Monday evening. Photo: BEN WALKER

WORKING HARD: Fire officers extinguish a blaze along the bank of the Macquarie River on Monday evening. Photo: BEN WALKER

POLICE are seeking public assistance as they look for youths believed to be responsible for a grass fire along the western bank of the Macquarie River on Monday night.

Shortly after 6pm a call was made to attend to the scene near the footbridge that crosses the river near Sandy Beach, and a decision was made to make the most of the conditions and reduce the amount of combustible material in an area that is renowned for being the target of arsonists.

The Bligh Street area has long been renowned as a target area for people lighting grass fires, with Monday’s incident the first ahead of what is expected to be a long summer period.

Three fire trucks and 12 firefighters were at the scene as the sun set on what had been a glorious spring day, however the promise of scorching temperatures later in the week forced the hand of those in attendance to remove further fuel from the area.

It is believed that up to eight children may have been in the area when the grassfire was lit, with investigations continuing.

“We believe it was deliberately lit and we encourage anyone that may have been in the area around that time and noticed anything suspicious to contact us,” Orana Local Area Command duty officer Inspector Jason Pietruszka said.

“It’s concerning behaviour and certainly once the weather starts to heat up these events have the potential to turn out much worse.”

It’s concerning behaviour and certainly once the weather starts to heat up these events have the potential to turn out much worse. - Inspector Jason Pietruszka

Dubbo Fire and Rescue station officer Mick Medlin said the mild temperatures on Monday evening gave his crew the opportunity to conduct a backburning operation to try and prevent further fires, particularly with temperatures tipped to reach 40 degrees later in the week.

“Fire and Rescue were called to the riverbank to a grass fire, and we’ve taken the mild conditions and the opportunity to conduct a backburn,” station officer Mick Medlin said.

“We believe there may have been children playing along the riverbank near the footbridge and they have started a fire and then decamped.

“Police are looking for those children to have a chat.

“There’s a lot of things in the community that frustrate us as firefighters and this is one of them, but it’s our role and we’ve taken the opportunity to turn it into a positive not just a negative today.

“We’ve elected to burn along the riverbank and get rid of dead grass that council can’t mow.

“Along the riverbank is a well-known hot spot for us to come to small vegetation fires, so now we’ve been able to clear out this vegetation and when we do have worsening conditions it’s less likely we’ll have a fire that gets out of control.”

Anyone who was in the Sandy Beach area at the time of the incident and may be able to pass on some information is asked to contact Dubbo Police Station on 6883 1599.

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