Bald Hills arson
AN arsonist has caused a great deal of damage at the Bald Hills Wildlife Reserve after lighting a fire last Wednesday night.
The CFA and DSE were called to the reserve in Bald Hills Road in Tarwin Lower around 10pm to extinguish the fire, which burnt grassland, trees and the bird hide.
Wonthaggi Police Senior Sergeant Trevor Teer said CFA and DSE personnel also located an intoxicated man at the reserve.
“Police attended and arrested a 39-year-old Box Hill man after he was found to have cigarette lighters and a number of photographs of the fire on his mobile phone,” he said.
“He was interviewed by Bass Coast detectives, charged with criminal damage by fire and was remanded to appear at Morwell Magistrates Court on January 4.”
South Gippsland Marine and Coastal Parks ranger in charge, Gerard Delaney, said the bird hide at the wetlands was completely destroyed in the fire.
“The facility is currently closed. Visitors can walk a little way in, but closer to the wetlands it has been cordoned off,” he said.
“We’ll be doing work over the next coming weeks to make it safe so that you can at least view the wetlands from the end of the trail.”
Mr Delaney described the deliberate blaze as “very disappointing”, as well as unnecessary and irresponsible, especially with the high temperatures forecast soon after, but was relieved the fire was brought under control quickly.
“It is very disappointing. The bird hide is a much loved asset and if you’re a bird lover or a bird watcher, you’d know the wetland is a fantastic place to see an array of birdlife,” he said.
“It was a good result of agencies working together – the CFA, DSE and Victoria Police. The fire was put under control leading up to the high fire danger days and the suspect was caught on the evening and charged.
“We worked really hard on Thursday to make sure the fire was definitely out. We hit it hard with crews because of the fire weather coming up.
“We didn’t want any possible points of ignition with much worse consequences.”
With the original bird hide built around 20 years ago, Mr Delaney said they had not yet put a price on rebuilding and it wouldn’t be rebuilt over summer.
He added it was an unfortunate time of the year for the fire to happen, with plenty of tourists holidaying in the region.
“Bald Hills wasn’t the most visited place, but it does make up the sweep of experiences in South Gippsland. We hold activities there and night walks with visitors. It does have that tourism drawcard,” he said.
“It will be closed for the foreseeable future. We need to focus on continuing to be vigilant in dealing with response to fire and other visitor management, so all we can do for the moment is make the area safe.”
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