Illegally dumped car in the centre of Richmond Vale fire inquiry

Police have strongly condemned illegal dumping of cars after an abandoned vehicle was believed to have contributed to the severity of this week’s Richmond Vale fire

Police are making inquiries in relation to the illegal disposal of a car in bushland, which was found in the line of fire.

The fire is still under active investigation. Police are working with arson investigators to identify the cause and origin of the blaze, which broke out on Tuesday, and are appealing to the public for information.

Firefighters were trying to contain the fire on Wednesday morning, when an increase in wind caused the blaze to pick up and expand.

A “perfect storm” of fire conditions – hot weather, fast winds and low humidity caused the fire to spread rapidly. 

More than 200 firefighters, assisted by multiple water-bombing aircraft, were called in to battle the 800 hectare inferno which threatened homes and forced the closure of Leggetts Drive.

A blaze also broke out at Black Hill on Wednesday, which was also believed to have been linked to an abandoned car. That matter is also under police investigation.

BALL OF FLAMES: The fire explodes through trees along Leggetts Drive. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

BALL OF FLAMES: The fire explodes through trees along Leggetts Drive. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The incidents led to the declaration of Section 44 – a local state of emergency – which allows firefighters to draw resources from elsewhere in the state.

Central Hunter acting crime manager Detective Sergeant Mitch Dubojski said the incident re-inforced the dangers of illegal dumping and the impact it can have.

“It can clearly become an extreme hazard,” he said.

Sergeant Dubojski said not only did illegally-dumped material impact wildlife, it could also cause extreme delays in fire situations, as firefighters had to identify items that may contain asbestos.

He “absolutely” condemned the act of illegal dumping, sending a strong message to offenders that they would be caught.

“We will use the full power of all legislation to address people committing these offences,” he said.

“The community won’t tolerate it.

“If there is a life lost in one of these fires, people will have to live with that.”

Sergeant Dubojski said police were working close with Cessnock Council and the RID Squad to target illegal dumping.

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.