Epping, Wollert fire caused by grinder sparks, police say

The blaze that threatened homes in the northern suburbs on Monday was started by sparks from a grinder, according to police.

Inspector Bob Dykstra said a workman had been using the grinder on the roadside in Donnybrook without proper protective devices and he had been charged with recklessly causing a bushfire.

Inspector Dykstra told a community meeting of about 150 residents at the Epping Memorial Hall on Wednesday, that the fire was not deliberate.

He said sometimes an “innocent source” could start an out-of-control blaze.

He said the decision not to evacuate residents was made because staying in the home was the safest option, rather than “exposing people to further risk” on the roads in the heavy smoke.

Residents questioned authorities including the CFA, VicRoads and Whittlesea council, over such issues as the warning system and the road gridlock as residents fled Monday’s grassfire that burnt 2400 hectares and affected Epping, Wollert, Kalkallo and Donnybrook.

Aurora resident Cara Horner said locals were told they had to “take responsibility” for their own safety.

“You feel like you’re living in suburban Melbourne but you are in a country area with country roads and need a fire plan,” she said.

‘‘We questioned the inability of (local) roads to cope in an emergency but VicRoads response was that upgrades were subject to (government) budgets.

“We need road infrastructure now, not 10 or 20 years time.”

Ms Corner said there was confusion about text messages that advised residents to “seek shelter now”, which some people thought meant to evacuate. 

Zoe MacDonald, project manager for the CFA’s bushfire preparedness program, said the Kalkallo-Donnybrook Road fire was a “big wake up call” for people on the outer metropolitan fringe.

She said only 144 residents had attended the nine fire-ready meetings held before the fire season in affected areas, which was “very low”.

The next CFA fire ready meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 5 at 7.30pm at the CFA, South Morang station at 875 Plenty Road.

SEE: Video: Epping, Wollert fire contained

SEE: Epping fire forced evacuations at Northern Hospital

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