Houses burnt down from air conditioners

Houses burnt down from air conditioners

10 February 2011

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Australia — Investigators from the Fire and Emergency Services Authority have spent the morning in Roleystone and Kelmscott trying to track the behaviour of the fire that razed 72 homes.

It is believed the blaze was sparked by an angle grinder on Sunday and spread quickly, fanned by a strong easterly.

FESA’s Craig Hynes says many of the homes destroyed were not in the line of the fire and it is now evident they burnt down because of evaporative air conditioning units.

“The dry filters are really a wick for properties; embers get into them and they burn quickly through the roofs,” he said.

Mr Hynes says FESA will be working with the evaporative air conditioning industry to improve safety.

He has also warned that weather conditions this weekend will be similar to last weekend’s and it is highly likely a total fire ban will be enforced.

The Premier Colin Barnett says the State Government will examine local by laws in order to ensure people have a greater clearance between their homes and surrounding bushland.

“The two issues that we will look at is, first, prescribed burning in the area and local controls and by laws that have allowed people to have trees close to their residences which made it impossible for the emergency services to save those houses,” he said.


Residents affected by the Roleystone Kelmscott bushfire say they do not harbour any resentment toward the off duty police officer accused of causing the blaze.

Police yesterday charged 56 year-old Sergeant Robert James Stevens with carrying out an activity in the open air that causes or is likely to cause a fire.

It is alleged the officer was using an angle grinder during a total fire ban and that a spark from the equipment started the blaze which claimed 72 homes.

Sergeant Stevens is on leave and was off duty at the time.

The Mayor of the City of Armadale Linton Reynolds, where the destroyed homes were located, says locals have forgiven the officer involved.

“He has been a valuable member of the community and he has made a terrible mistake,” he said.

“But he has to go through the process, the police have to be seen to treat their own just the same as they would treat you or I.”

Mr Reynolds says many of those affected by the fire sympathise with the officer.

“Particularly because his wife is in very poor health, so he has enough issues of his own at home and on top of that he has had this befall him for one silly stupid mistake he made.”

The damage bill from the fire is expected to stretch into the tens of millions of dollars.

If convicted, Mr Stevens faces a maximum one year jail term or a fine up to $25,000, or both.

He is due to appear in court next month.

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