Big fire sparks call for control
SENIOR rural fire officers are still finalising an investigation into a grass fire which consumed more than 2000 hectares of country on Thursday at The Glen, south of Warwick.
A Rural Fire Service spokesman yesterday confirmed that the owner of the property on which the fire started held a permit to burn, but declined to say if the permit had been breached.
Calls to emergency services about a fire off the New England Hwy began around 12.30pm on Thursday and gusty conditions drove it across the road, with one residence evacuated.
The highway remained closed until early evening as 65 urban and rural firefighters battled to control the blaze.
Fire permits are issued by local fire wardens who can stipulate at what wind speed a fire cannot be lit, but the maximum speed by law is 24kmh.
Bureau of Meteorology records for Thursday show a wind speed at Warwick at midday of 20kmh, but with gusts of up to 32kmh, rising to 35kmh at 3pm.
Toowoomba Area rural operations inspector Col Neal would yesterday not be drawn on the events leading up to the fire, only to say the he would wrap up his investigation "on Monday or Tuesday".
"What I can say is that we just urge property owners to heed the conditions when considering starting a fire, and Thursday was a gusty day," he said.
"Quite honestly we are expecting one of the worst bushfire seasons on record, with the seasonal conditions and the fuel load (grass) around, we've had the worst fires west of Roma for 50 to 60 years this year."
"We're reviewing conditions on a weekly basis with a view to deciding where total fire bans need to be put in place."
Property owners found to be responsible for an illegal fire, without a permit or in breach of one, can face a maximum fine of $5000.