Hundreds of Wagga homes already facing an increased fire risk because they adjoin public reserves are being put in even more danger by illegal dumping.
Riverina Rural Fire Service district officer Bradley Stewart said as many as 7000 houses near reserves in Wagga, Junee, Lockhart and Coolamon were considered “predisposed to being threatened by fire”.
Mr Stewart said the RFS worked with councils and other government agencies to create what were known as asset protection zones, which basically create a buffer between homes and the reserve land.
However, the effort that goes into creating these buffers is being hampered by illegal dumping of green waste on Wagga’s open spaces, like Willans Hill
“They are driving or walking into the Willans Hill reserve and they are dumping that green waste in the reserve – or sometimes just straight over the fences into that asset protection zone – and they are adding to the overall fuel layer,” Mr Stewart said.
“Once it’s accumulated to a sufficient volume and dried out to a sufficient level, it can completely undo the effects of the asset protection zone and actually expose their home to a greater level of risk.
“It is also a risk to firefighters and can restrict access for fire trucks to protect.
“For example, at the back of Bourkelands, green waste is being dumped in the reserve area and it is starting to sink roots and grow. Putting aside the ecological issues, it’s just going to add to the fuel load.
“When a fire does burn up there, it will burn with a greater intensity and put that area at a greater risk.”
Mr Stewart also warned that arson remained an issue in Wagga, which has been plagued by a scourge of car fires.
“We have a lot of stolen cars and a quite a few are set on fire. Luckily none of them have been able to take a foothold in the area where they were set alight,” he said.
“The Pierces Creek fire in ACT, which last week posed a real threat to parts of Canberra, was started as the direct result of a car fire.”
Mr Stewart warned Wagga householders to make sure their properties were ready for the bushfire season.
He said the RFS’s bushfire protection guide recommended cleaning up around homes and in gutters, and trimming grass, trees and shrubs.
A lot of people do not realise just how confronting it is when you’re in a fire situation, trying to defend your property.
“Families also need to sit down and talk about a bushfire plan,” Mr Stewart said.
“Are they going to stay or leave, and if they are separated, where will they go and how will they stay in touch?
“People need to be physically and mentally prepared for it if they decide to stay and defend their property.
“A lot of people do not realise just how confronting it is when you’re in a fire situation, trying to defend your property.
It’s very hot, it’s very loud, it’s very windy. You can’t see anywhere. It’s very difficult to breathe and the heat coming off the fire that just exposed skin itself will start to burn.
“You need to have adequate clothing and protection in place. Otherwise don’t even consider it.”