Nerves on edge as residents battle blaze

Nerves on edge as residents battle blaze

14 February 2009

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Australia — Defiant residents ignored evacuation orders and defended their homes against a deliberately lit blaze in Sheidow Park yesterday.

Police were still hunting the arsonist responsible last night but arrested a Kilburn man, 30, alleged to have started a fire at Darlington less than an hour earlier.

Two water-bomber planes and 80 firefighters were called to the blaze at Sheidow Park near the Young St overpass on the Southern Expressway about 3pm.

As the flames spread through about 20 ha of grassland, the residents of 50 homes were ordered to evacuate, but many stayed behind to fight the fire with hoses, buckets and shovels.

Resident Roman Zwolski said a group of quick-thinking locals battled the blaze, which ultimately came within metres of their homes.

“Some people were even leaning over their back fences with hoses, so it did get fairly close,” he said.

Rachel Myers said she considered a last-minute getaway as it appeared her home would be engulfed.

“It was a bit scary, I was starting to think about what I should take,” she said.

Adam Weger said it would have been far worse if not for firebreak action taken earlier in the day.

“We were lucky the council actually came through and graded the paddock . . . because the grass was about waist height. It would have ripped straight through,” he said.

The expressway was closed to traffic during the emergency, but two car pile-ups were reported in the area as smoke hampered driving conditions. Police said sightseers had hindered the rescue effort and demanded they stay away from the firefront.

Earlier, bombers were called in to fight a separate suspicious fire that broke out near Seacombe Rd in Darlington about 2.30pm.

Superintendent Graham Goodwin said the Kilburn man who was arrested and charged over the Darlington fire was refused bail.

Investigations would continue into the Sheidow Park blaze.

Supt Goodwin also warned potential firebugs they would be targeted as high fire danger conditions returned to the state this weekend.

“Even though it is cooler, we will still continue with our NOMAD preventative response and there will be a strong police presence throughout the weekend and beyond,” he said.

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