Out of control blaze during total fire ban leads to fine

MAKING AMENDS: A man who lit a fire that got out of control during a total fire ban was fined in Orange Local Court on Monday. FILE PHOTO
MAKING AMENDS: A man who lit a fire that got out of control during a total fire ban was fined in Orange Local Court on Monday. FILE PHOTO

A man who set a fire during a total fire ban and which required 11 NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) trucks to extinguish was sentenced in Orange Local Court on Monday.

Michael Robert Halls, 37, of Melaleuca Way, received second degree burns to his arm and burns to his face when he tried to extinguish the out-of control fire on September 23 before the RFS arrived.

According to police facts Halls did not realise the ban was in place when he decided to burn cuttings from a blackberry bush.

He lit the pile, which was about 50c centimetres high and two metres wide at about 1.30pm, but it quickly got out of control and he phoned triple zero immediately. 

The fire damaged 500 metres of fencing and burnt 2.7 hectares of grass and trees on three properties in Radnidge Lane, Watts Road and Underwood Road at Borenore.

He was represented by solicitor Mick Madden, who said his client had a spotless criminal record and was a respected member of the community.

“He’s approached the neighbours, he had it surveyed, paid for the survey and will pay for the fencing,” Mr Madden said.

It’s estimated the fencing will cost between $5000 and $6000 to replace.

Mr Madden said his client bought the property about two years ago but does not have a farming background and was yet to experience such conditions.

“We had an unusually dry winter, it was an unusual day, [the fire ban] was for one day,” he said.

Mr Madden said the fire was lit in a cleared area and Halls has since arranged with with a neighbour to purchase a fire fighting unit.

Magistrate Anthony Spence said it would be an affront to justice if he didn’t convict Halls.

He also fined him $2500 after taking into account apologies to neighbours and firefighters and for agreeing to pay for the damage .

“You should have had more sense, you should have been more attuned to the radio messages,” Mr Spence said.

“I accept otherwise you are a man of excellent good character and good responsibility but you didn’t keep your eye on the ball.”