The slashing of grass along the railway line near Anderson Rd has not gone ahead in time for fire season this year, despite it being a known fire hazard.By Kathleen Tonini
Grass along the railway line near Anderson Rd, which a local firefighter says is longer than when a devastating grassfire broke out in February, has been dismissed by V/Line as a low priority.
The February 23 fire (inset) burnt about 130 hectares.
It threatened houses and drew on the services of close to 80 firefighters.
The fire was believed to be sparked by a freight train passing through the area.
Echuca Village firefighter Brian Quinn, who was Echuca Village fire brigade captain at the time of the fire, feared what would happen if the grass was to ignite again.
‘‘If a train came along there and threw a spark we’d be in a far worse situation,’’ he said.
Temperatures are set to be in the high 30s and low 40s until Wednesday, prompting state-wide CFA warnings.
Mr Quinn said if a fire did break out again in the area, it would be more likely to threaten residential areas because of the increased fuel load.
‘‘I think anything we would throw at it locally would be insignificant to what mother nature would throw at us.’’
Mr Quinn said there had been no fuel reduction burn prior to summer as there had been before last season.
‘‘If you were going to do something it should have been done about in October, it’s too dangerous to do it now.’’
A V/Line spokesperson yesterday said the area could not be sprayed and slashed as it was within a ‘‘sensitive environmental area’’ but could be burnt off at the right time of year.
‘‘Working with the CFA and DSE we may be able to conduct a fuel burn, however following the fire last year it has been assessed this area is not a high priority,’’ the V/Line spokesperson said.
Mr Quinn believed whoever maintained the land around railway lines and those who maintained the trains themselves were both responsible when it came to fire risk.
‘‘It should be a combined responsibility when it comes to fire hazards,’’ he said.
Campaspe CFA operations officer John Cutting said he was aware the grass had grown back, but was concerned about grassfire risk across the whole shire.
‘‘That is one part of the shire where there is grassfire risk but there are others,’’ he said.
He said fuel reduction and burning off had been planned for autumn but nothing had been done prior to this summer.
Mr Cutting echoed Mr Quinn by saying it was not as simple as long, dry grass presenting a fire hazard.
‘‘It’s not just eliminating the fuel, it’s eliminating the risk of it starting,’’ he said.
He believed some maintenance of trains had occurred since last year’s fire.
P&O TransAustralia, who had a train in the area at the time of last year’s fire, did not respond to the Riverine Herald’s request for information about its internal investigation.
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