RESIDENTS are living in fear, fire crews are frustrated, police want help – but the vicious cycle of suspicious fires continues to boil in West Tamworth.
Statistics late yesterday showed there had been 29 fires in just 50 days – sparking a blaze of fury.
Locals say the kids are just bored, returning time and again to abandoned properties to light up anything and everything, as emergency services scramble to douse the flames which erupt almost every day.
There have been 17 calls for help to local fire brigades since September 1 for fires in Green St and neighbouring streets.
One blackened and burnt-out Green St shell has had four fires take hold, including two in three days; the most recent yesterday.
One resident is living in fear her home will be the next target – describing the “nightmare” she has to contend with every day.
“You’re not game enough to go over town or go away on holidays because you’re frightened you’re going to come back to a bare shell,” the woman, who fears reprisal attacks if she goes public, told The Leader yesterday.
“It’s a nightmare, honestly it is ... to walk out the front of your house and see it almost every day.”
The woman has called police and fire crews on countless occasions but says the destruction continues day after day.
“The people that are doing it ... they don’t understand what they’re doing to other people’s lives,” she said.
“I’m waiting for the next one across the road to go up again.”
And it’s a fear that has spread across the community, she argues.
“That’s our worst nightmare – who is going to get hurt next?” she said.
“Is it going to be one of them or is it going to be someone that lives in a house . They could be killed.”
Fire and Rescue NSW station officer Bob Luck said crews had been called to a Green St home on four occasions, and each time it was a suspicious blaze.
“It’s especially frustrating,” he said.
“Something is going to happen one of these days and we’re just going to get there too late to save them.”
Station officer Luck said a fire could be so unpredictable and what could start as a simple bit of fun between kids could quickly turn deadly.
“You never know what is going to happen,” he said.
“Especially if there is grass or wind. It will just roll through there at the moment with the dry conditions we have.”
Adding fuel to the fire is school holidays – which can be some of the busiest times for emergency services.
“Some of these parents should start to think about what these kids are up to, especially when school holidays come,” station officer Luck said.
It’s not only house fires which have the potential to erupt into something much larger, but also grass fires.
Blazes have been sparked in local parks, front yards and other vacant blocks.
The heat and dry conditions mean they can spread pretty quickly so fire crews have been on alert – but only adding to the frustration for crews is knowing offenders are running from the scene just seconds before they pull up.
Oxley police Inspector Paul Johnson told The Leader police had been called out to numerous incidents in the Coledale area.
“We continue to maintain our taskings in that area,” he said.
“And we do appeal for anyone who does see anything suspicious or does see a fire to contact us immediately.”
Police are investigating all suspicious blazes with canvasses of the area taken this week.
But officers warn those behind the fires are treading on thin ice.
“The behaviour that is being displayed by these miscreants is just dangerous,” Inspector Johnson said.
“It is dangerous to them, the community and emergency services.”