Fire crews across south-west Sydney are working hard to control the wild bushfires that ravaged land across Casula, Moorebank, Holsworthy, WattleGrove, VoyagerPoint, Menai and Heathcote at the weekend.
Some residents were evacuated on Saturday and Sunday as weather conditions worsened, with many forced to leave their homes, uncertain of the near future.
At a police media conference, Liverpool police acting superintendent Paul Albury provided updates about the investigation.
“Emergency services responded to an out-of-control bushfire at Casula. Strike force Carpi has been started out of Liverpool police station. The area where we believe the fire commenced has been forensically examined. We’ve taken a number of statements from people and canvased CCTV footage. So that’s what I have at this point in time. We’re at early stages of the investigation,” he said.
“On Friday night about 10pm we were called to a number of spot fires over a period of some hours. NSW fire brigade and the Rural Fire Service responded and remained there until 4.30am. Then there were no records of fire until Saturday afternoon about 2.45pm. It’s possible it was re-ignited. Nobody was witnessed at 10pm on Friday night. It’s a densely bush area.
“It's unclear at this stage how the fire started. We’ve spent an enormous number of staff to evacuate homes and keep people safe. There was a high potential for loss of life and buildings to be lost and we’re extremely fortunate that didn’t happen. But the thoughtlessness of the act could have led to catastrophic consequences. No one can replace the loss of life or memories of people’s homes if they’re destroyed. There are serious consequences in terms of jail time.”
Liverpool police are working with the State Crime Command’s Arson Unit and specialist forensic officers to investigate the cause of the fires.
The park where it started was used by families and residents for its Bellbird Walking Track.
At the weekend, residents were calling for answers due to the confusion surrounding whether the fire was part of a scheduled back-burn in the region.
However, the Rural Fire Service confirmed that the back-burns were postponed because of the extreme weather conditions.
Spokesman James Morris said: “The hazard reduction that was planned was postponed due to the weather condition forecasts for the weekend. Co-incidentally there was a fire in the vicinity of where the hazard reduction was going to occur and now it’s taken out a large area that was planned to be burnt. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by police.
“At this stage we’ve had no reports of damage. They’re investigating damage that was caused and we’ll get information today but it may take some time.”
IMPACT ON RESIDENTS
Wattle Grove resident and former Liverpool Councillor Alfred Vella said it was a scary moment when he got a call from a friend asking him to leave.
“A friend called and left a message asking me to evacuate. The fire was very close to us. Many people had to leave their homes. On Saturday night I could see red flames from my home and on Monday morning there was still smoke in my kitchen. I really hope the person who did this gets caught and prosecuted.”
Wildlife rescuer Kane Durrant and his wife were out rescuing animals affected by the fires. “Rachael and I were on site at the Holsworthy fires on Sunday night for about eight hours, patrolling for injured wildlife,” he said.
“We responded to a call of a possum with burns to its feet and face. These are very typical injuries in times of bushfire. The possum has since been treated by a vet and after rehabilitation will be released.
“The best thing residents can do to help is leave dishes and buckets of water out for our native wildlife. Keep pets inside while wildlife tries to find its way and if you see anything give Sydney Wildlife a call. My wife Rachael and I will be on site for the remainder of the fires and will respond to wildlife sightings.”
TUESDAY RFS UPDATE
As of Tuesday afternoon 1.15pm, Rural Fire Service updated their website with the following warning for residents:
“Firefighters are gaining the upper hand on the bush fire in the Holsworthy and Menai area.
“The fire continues to burn within the Holsworthy Range and around Barden Ridge. It has currently burnt more than 3,067 hectares.
“More than 200 firefighters are continuing backburning operations across the fireground to establish containment lines. This is likely to generate heavy smoke in the area, particularly in the vicinity of Heathcote Road.
“Heathcote Road is now closed between Macarthur Drive and New Illawarra Road due to heavy smoke and fire fighting operations. New Illawarra Road remains open but further closures are likely. There is currently no access to Sandy Point. Access to Pleasure Point and Voyager Point is for residents only with photo identification via police escort.
“Smoke from the fire is currently settled across a number of Sydney suburbs including the South, Inner West, CBD, Eastern and North Shore areas.
“While the fire is at Advice level, residents need to keep themselves up to date by checking the NSW RFS website. People in the area should follow instructions from emergency service personnel.”
MONDAY RFS UPDATE
As of Monday evening 8.03pm, the Rural Fire Service updated their website with the following warning for residents:
“Firefighters continue to work on an out-of-control bushfire in the Holsworthy and Menai area.
“The fire continues to burn within the Holsworthy Range and around Barden Ridge. It has currently burnt more than 2860 hectares.
“Voyager Point, Pleasure Point, Sandy Point, Alfords Point, Barden Ridge, Illawong, Menai and Bangor residents should remain up to date throughout the night by checking the NSW RFS website.”
Last story updates: Monday, 11.19pm and Tuesday, 3.45pm.