Arson suspected in Fingal bushfires

A RASH of deliberately lit fires around Fingal Head on the weekend has authorities fearing a repeat of the wild bushfires which ripped through bushland in the Tweed Coast village and threatened houses just three years ago. Only weeks out from the region's peak bushfire season, firefighters from across the Tweed were called to action over the weekend to deal with seven suspicious fires at Fingal Head.

Firefighters from NSW Fire Brigade Kingscliff and Tweed Heads and the Tweed Rural Fire Service (RFS), responded to five separate fires on Saturday and two on Sunday, all within an 850-metre radius.

Tweed Heads station officer Marty Maher said the fires appeared to have been deliberately lit.

"With that amount of fires, they will have been deliberately lit," he said. "Police have been alerted and will be on the lookout for arsonists in the area." Mr Maher said the heavy rains at the start of the year followed by an extended dry period had created a significant fire hazard in the bushland around Letitia Road.

"There is only one access road and with no water supply and poor visibility it can get quite dangerous fighting these kinds of fires."

RFS community safety officer Laurence McCoy said the bushfire season was due to start on September 1 and firefighters did not want to see a repeat of the 2005 fires that destroyed large sections of the Fingal bushland.

"It's a bit of a concern," he said. "It is not an isolated incident. Fingal Head has been a big problem; there have been a number of fires there in the past. In 2005, we had a very large series of fires out there."

Mr McCoy said while the fires on the weekend did not threaten any houses, the dryness of the soil and strong winds had helped fuel them. "The fires did not threaten any houses but there were access issues for the fire crews," he said.

"The NSW Fire Brigade and the Rural Fire Service worked well together. They worked really hard to get all the fires out so there was no threat of reigniting."

Mr McCoy said the weather bureau was predicting a warmer bushfire period than last year.

"This year we have got significant potential for some big grass fires," he said. "With the lack of rainfall over winter the sandy areas have become quite dry."



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