28 January 2014
Another heatwave has increased the threat of grassfires and put our fireys on high alert, Cheryl Balfour reports
From page 1 A FAULTY car airconditioner was the cause of a raging fire that engulfed grassland in Mernda last week.
CFA and MFB fire crews and aerial water bombers battled the fast-moving blaze from 3pm on Tuesday, January 21, as winds pushed flames north, from Bridge Inn Rd toward Masons Rd, where it threatened houses and livestock.
Whittlesea Crime Investigation Unit detective Senior Constable Paul Mullenger said fire investigators established the blaze was sparked by a passing car.
“A moving clutch from the airconditioning compressor malfunctioned, causing it to separate from the vehicle and come to rest in the grass beside Bridge Inn Rd,” SenConst Mullenger said.
“Due to the nature of the malfunction, the clutch component was friction-heated, causing the fire to ignite.
“Police are appealing for witnesses to the incident.”
Sen-Const Mullenger said a fire near Harvest Home Rd, in Epping, which erupted about the same time as the Mernda fire, was suspicious and under investigation.
Hume Crime Investigation Unit acting detective Senior Constable Adrian Wrout said police were also investigating six, suspicious fires that broke out along the Hume Freeway, near the Craigieburn Rd bypass, on Friday, January 17.
Those fires, coupled with another suspicious blaze behind Pacific Epping on January 15, have put CFA captains on high alert this week.
South Morang CFA Captain Lindsay McHugh, who fought the Hume Freeway fires, said he believed they were deliberately lit.
“The leaders of brigades across the northern suburbs are absolutely concerned about what’s going on and how this person could put the community at such risk,” Mr McHugh said.
“It’s just absolutely repugnant; I don’t think they’re aware of the danger they’re putting the community in and the firefighters.
“If it was accidental, the cause is identifiable and if there is a person involved, they own up – usually they’ve misused equipment or they’ve done something stupid like using a welder on a total fire ban day. In this case, there is no person.”
Doreen brigade captain Rob Saitta urged residents to be vigilant, with temperatures again expected to soar over the next three weeks.
“January and February are our busy times, but this could continue into March,” Mr Saitta said.
“Everything is so bone dry out there; the grass is so dry, it won’t take much for it to go.”
Police urged people to report suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
To monitor fire activity in the area, go to cfa.vic.gov.au or emergency.vic.gov.au