Firebug near Woodburn on the loose
POLICE are still hunting a suspected firebug responsible for 11 suspicious fires along a 100km stretch of the Pacific Highway, south of Woodburn, last Friday afternoon.
The incident triggered the immediate declaration of a Section 44 emergency, which sent firefighters from Ballina to Iluka, plus aircraft and other equipment streaming into the area.
Richmond crime manager, Inspector Greg Moore, said police were keen to talk to the occupant or occupants of a red ute seen leaving one of fires.
“Detectives are currently following up on a number of leads and ask anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity in the area between 4pm and 6pm to contact police,” he said.
Insp Moore said at this stage there was no connection to the fires lit along the Summerland Way in similar circumstances last week.
He said anyone caught lighting fires would feel the full weight of the law.
“The police also want to praise the response of the Rural Fire Service and others for their efforts in containing the situation,” he said.
RFS Superintendent Boyd Townsend said had conditions worsened the fires could have had devastating consequences.
“Had we not had this rain over the weekend, firefighters would have been committed down there right through Christmas and New Year,” he said.
“Our saviour was being able dispatch an aircraft immediately from Tabulam – and we had bulldozers on floats ready to go.”
Supt Townsend was breathing a huge sigh of relief following the weekend rain, which has brought about a swift close to current fire operations across the region, ensuring exhausted firefighters will get to spend Christmas with their families.
“This season so far has been a long hard road for RFS volunteers and firefighters from National Parks and Wildlife and Forests NSW. It hasn’t been a quick one or two-week event, but nearly four months these firefighters have been on the job containing fires and protecting property,” he said.
“Many do not realise the commitment of these professional volunteers.”