Former fireman charged over blaze

Former fireman charged over blaze

17 January 2009

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Australia — A former Rural Fire Service volunteer was charged yesterday with causing a fire in the world heritage-listed Wollemi National Park as the Premier, Nathan Rees, visited the suburb where bushfire threatened homes this week.

Daryl Byrnes, of North Richmond, was one of two men who appeared in Blacktown Local Court charged with intentionally causing a fire and being reckless with its spread, damaging property by fire and stealing a motor vehicle.

The court heard that the possibility of death and property loss was immense after Byrnes and another North Richmond man, Michael Drury, allegedly set fire to a stolen vehicle in bushland adjoining the park on Sydney’s north-western outskirts on Wednesday.

In granting both men conditional bail the magistrate, Tim Keady, said the offences of stealing a vehicle and deliberately destroying it by setting fire to it in tinder dry bushland was “a very worrying thing”.

The resulting bushfire spread rapidly, engulfing about 1.6 hectares, and water-bombing aircraft were required to bring it under control.

Mr Rees, under fire himself, spent yesterday warning others about the threat of fires next week, when temperatures are expected to soar above 40 degrees.

As reports of discontent at his performance continued to emerge from Labor ranks, Mr Rees visited Londonderry, in the Hawkesbury region, where a bushfire had narrowly missed homes on Wednesday.

He said Labor agitators should “get on with the job” and that he had no concerns about diabolical polls that had given the party a primary vote of 26 per cent.

“When I went to bed last night I was thinking about the rains and their effect on these fires and nothing else,” Mr Rees said in front of a patch of charred bushland.

More than 30 fires were burning across the state yesterday, but no houses were under threat. The mercury is predicted to reach close to 40 in large parts of the state from Monday, and the extreme temperatures are due in Sydney late next week.

“People who live on the urban and bush interface areas of Sydney … should take all appropriate precautions,” Mr Rees said.

Byrnes, 20, and Drury, 19, will reappear in Blacktown Local Court on January 30.

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