• Tony Bosworth

Fire risk as tonnes of tree waste left around Colo Heights

Hawkesbury RFS volunteers are fuming about large piles of highly combustible material left by Endeavour Energy contractors months after they cleared trees from around power lines.

With memories of the Gospers Mountain mega-fire fresh in everyone’s minds – not least for those who fought those fires and the many who lost homes and livelihoods – anger is simmering.

“As a local in the RFS and having lived and fought through the Gospers Fire I’m pretty pissed off,” one RFS volunteer told the Post on condition of anonymity because volunteers are not allowed to speak to the media.

Federal MP Susan Templeman is also concerned about the situation and brought the issue up at a meeting of the Regional Bushfire Recovery Committee last Tuesday.

“Right now, people affected by the fires are telling me that their mental health is fragile. Some cry easily and they react to triggers. So the last thing they need to see is piles of flammable tree waste lying along the easements,” Ms Templeman said.

At the Post we have been provided with many pictures of tree waste, some of it substantial, lying along the side of roads such as Wheelbarrow Ridge and Putty Road. See our gallery for pictures.

Ms Templeman says the issue is widespread.

“I am concerned about the reports I’m receiving. Along with Colo Heights, the issue is occurring along parts of Bells Line of Road, and as far away as Dargan, in Lithgow.

“On the morning of October 13, my office was made aware of concerns surrounding the clearing of trees around power lines in Colo Heights, and I raised it the same day during a meeting of the Regional Bushfire Recovery Committee.

“This committee is comprised of Federal and State MPs and Mayors representing bushfire-affected areas in the Greater Sydney Region. I was informed that there was to be a meeting in the afternoon of October 13 between Resilience NSW, Endeavour Energy and councils about this very matter. I have not been informed of the outcome of that meeting.”

We asked Endeavour Energy for their comments but received no response.

Another RFS volunteer told us his understanding was Endeavour Energy told their tree-lopping contractors to clear 10metres either side of all power lines.

“They were told to only take away stuff from private properties,” the RFS volunteer told the Post.

“If it was on national, state or council land it was to be left. National parks discovered it a few months ago and sent a team up with drones to survey it and take action, but nothing has happened in regards to a clean up yet.”

We asked the RFS for comment and they told us the Department of Planning Industry and Environment was responsible for clearing waste wood on their land.

We asked the RFS if they were concerned about these amounts of combustible material left on the ground, given the bad fire season last year?

We are still waiting for a reply to the question.

We also talked to the Department of Environment and asked for their comments and were told they would look into it.

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