Island bushfire being investigated

By Yarrawonga Chronicle

A fire that started on an island in the upper reaches of Lake Mulwala near Majors Creek on Saturday is being investigated by police.

Firefighters were called to the blaze around 2.30pm on January 11.

Ground emergency service crews consisting of CFA, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Rural Fire Service and Corowa Rescue Squad were able to access the island by boat with two water-bombing aircraft also deployed. 

With gusting south-westerly winds up to 70km/hr, flames spotted onto another island, spreading embers and setting alight trees on the lake as well as burning leaves onto a neighbouring property.

CFA Yarrawonga Fire Brigade First Lieutenant Simon Crawford said the incident was reported to himself as a NSW fire before being assessed to Victoria.

The two-waterbombing aircraft from Benalla and Ovens as well as a fire attacker helicopter from Bendigo were used to put out the fire from the air.

“A great job was done by aircraft to get the fire under control after it jumped to a second island,” Mr Crawford said.

“CFA (Country Fire Association) and RFS (Rural Fire Service) were assisted by Murray Goulburn Water, SES and the NSW and Victorian Police who all did a great job at clearing the waterways of other boats.

“The fire originally started on one island and embers started dropping, causing another fire to break out on the NSW side. 

“Once contained it was being monitored by Parks Victoria. 

“The temperature dropped but the winds were still as dangerous.”

Although Saturday was dramatically cooler than previous days with a temperature of 25degrees, the extreme wind fanned the flames, creating great concern for the fire crews.  

Grant Churchin said NSW Police are handling the investigation of the incident as the island is on the NSW side of the original Murray River course.

“We are still investigating what caused the fire. There are rumours the fire may have been deliberately lit and a tinny (small fishing boat) was seen leaving the scene some 200 metres away.

“There was no structural damage or threat to communities due to the location of the fire which was extinguished around 4.30pm.

“The fire flared up again in the evening due to the increased winds but with cool conditions there was no threat of embers spreading the fire onto other areas.” 

Mr Churchin said police are interested in hearing from anyone who may have seen or heard anything relating to how the fire was started. 

This was the second island fire in the area within two years.

In February, 2018 a bushfire at nearby Goat Island started at a campsite where 12 campers were evacuated by emergency crews. Aircraft were also called in to extinguish this fire.