The Currandooley fire has been referred to the NSW Coroner to determine whether an inquiry should be held.
The announcement came on Thursday afternoon following the Goulburn Post’s questions to NSW Police.
“The fire, which originated in the Monaro Local Area Command on January 17, 2017, resulted in considerable damage caused to property,” a spokesman said.
“The matter was investigated by NSW Police, with assistance provided by NSW Rural Fire Service and reported by police to the Coroner.
“The fire is not being treated as suspicious. Officers from Monaro Local Area Command are preparing a brief for the NSW Coroner. This is in-line with NSW Police standard operating procedures for any fires that cause damage of more than $500,000.”
The blaze wiped out 3387 hectares around Tarago and Mount Fairy.
The RFS investigation found that a bird strike on a high voltage powerline at the Capital Wind Farm, sparked the outbreak after catching fire and dropping into dry grass.
Residents Against Jupiter Wind Farm member and Tarago district resident Dr Michael Crawford, at least, says it raises further questions.
He and other residents claimed bird strikes on high voltage powerlines managed by Infigen Energy at the Capital and nearby Woodlawn wind farms have set off fires in the past month.
“I just want an inquiry to discover what happened and, because there have been several instances, to identify whether it’s a systemic problem and if it is, is there a systemic solution, which is what a Coroner’s inquiry is meant to do,” Dr Crawford said.
The inquiry could expose wider public safety issues such as the infrastructure’s design and improved fire mitigation to protect the community, he argued.
“I don’t believe that means shutting down wind farms per se because it doesn’t look as though it was associated with the turbines,” he said.
Infigen Energy has said the fire started “several hundred metres away from the turbines.” It does not accept liability.
Dr Crawford has written to the RFS and Deputy Premier John Barilaro, whose electorate covers part of the fire field, requesting the inquiry.
He’s not the only one seeking answers. South-East Local Land Services chairman Tim de Mestre also wants a broader investigation. The blaze destroyed most of his 950ha Bungendore Road property, ‘Merigan.’
“I’m sure you’ll find all the people who had land burnt want a public inquiry, irrespective of their views on wind farms,” Dr Crawford said.
Mr Barilaro said a number of Tarago residents had contacted him regarding the Currandooley fire and its cause.
“I have written to the NSW Minister for Emergency Services seeking his advice,” he said.
“According to the NSW RFS, fire investigators determined the fire started as a result of a bird flying close to high voltage powerlines, igniting and landing in dry grass. I am aware that the matter is now a part of an ongoing investigation.”
Goulburn MP Pru Goward said she spoke in depth to the RFS about the cause shortly after the fire occurred.
“They are confident that it was caused by a bird,” she told The Post.
“I understand further investigations were planned and I fully support the community wanting to know the answers.
“Should the RFS enquiries find that the high voltage lines contributed to the fire then I will be seeking a comprehensive investigation. I have already written to Emergency Services Minister, Troy Grant, asking him to ensure the community’s concerns are thoroughly addressed.”
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