Army ‘unprepared for blaze’

Army ‘unprepared for blaze’

11 December 2013

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Australia — ARMY staff were unprepared and ill-equipped to battle an aggressive bushfire that started after a botched explosive ordnance training exercise at a military training ground in the NSW Blue Mountains in October, an inquiry has heard.

The inquiry, which is looking into the circumstances surrounding the Marrangaroo Training Area fire, heard the blaze proved a danger to Defence personnel trying to fight it on the day and some were almost hit by shrapnel from unexploded ordnance set off by the blaze.

The fire went on to destroy five homes, more than 50,000ha and burned for more than a month.

The inquiry yesterday heard Defence personnel put out some of the fire with shovels and using a hose.

Defence Explosive Ordnance Training instructor Andrew Newsome said the flames were too high and the hose they had did not reach the main part of the blaze.

“There wasn’t really anything we could do to fight that end of the fire,” he told the inquiry.

“We couldn’t get to the face of it . . . there might have been more unexploded bombs.”

The inquiry has already heard that hazard reduction had not taken place at the site for almost 20 years despite a Rural Fire Service recommendation two years earlier to have it done.

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