Residents praise $37,000 government pledge to safeguard Willans Hill from fire

Firefighters extinguish a blaze on Willans Hill.
Firefighters extinguish a blaze on Willans Hill.

RESIDENTS in Wagga’s inner-suburbs have praised a $37,000 federal government pledge to safeguard Willans Hill from catastrophic fires. 

The reserve, described as a “hot spot” for arsonists, will be upgraded to enable access for heavy fire tankers. 

Currently, only light and medium sized tankers can access the area’s dense bush land. 

Nearby homeowners, fearful of a deliberately-lit fire spreading to their property, have applauded the government’s foresight. 

Kooringal’s Kaitlyn Hargreaves believes it could be the difference between life-or-death. 

“It’s only a matter of time before one of these fires spreads to the back of a house and burns it down,” she said.

“There’s hundreds of homes backing onto Willans Hill – it’s like playing with fire.

“It’s such a great area with a great view, but it’s ruined by the threat of these psychos lighting fires up there for their own amusement.”

It comes after Wagga’s previous summer saw the hill targeted by arsonists on many occasions. 

RFS operations officer Brad Stewart claims the cash splash will significantly reduce the risk of grass fires spreading to suburban areas. 

“Unfortunately there’s evidence on this hill of a number of fires in recent times, and some of those were suspiciously lit,” he said.

“It provides us a greater range of options to provide safety and property protection should a fire occur at this part of the reserve.

Willans Hill also accommodates several of Wagga’s marquee tourist attractions, including the Botanic Gardens, Wagga Zoo and Miniature Railway.

“If those properties and tourism sites were to be threatened by fire, it would have a significant impact on the local community financially,” Mr Stewart said. 

The concerns were echoed by Wagga’s Kim Anesbury, who was last year rendered homeless after a fire decimated her property. 

Ms Anesbury, who suffered severe smoke inhalation during the ordeal, had pleaded for increased fire safety. 

”It’s the worst thing you can possibly endure,” she told The Daily Advertiser after the fire.

”My life will never be the same after that night.

”It’s burnt into my memory forever.”

The upgrades are scheduled to begin in October, with the works slated to be finalised by summer.