A TELSTRA technician learnt the dangers of mobile phone blackspots first hand this week when he started a fire in the Kiewa Valley.
Frustrated locals say it would have been funny, if it wasn’t so serious.
The technician was working on a landline pit on Running Creek Road when he sparked the blaze.
He dialled triple-0 but there was no service.
Nearby farmer Maria Connors answered his calls for help and she arrived with a small firefighting unit.
They then used a local UHF channel — the emergency network locals created — to get a call to triple-0 on a landline.
The CFA stopped the roadside blaze just 20 metres from the bush.
Kancoona’s Gerry Stow yesterday it was another example of a simple emergency that could have been something far greater, all because of a mobile phone blackspot.
“Maria stopped it getting away,” he said
“We don’t have incident after incident but when we do, the lack of mobile coverage adds a potential for it to go pear-shaped.
“We have no radio, have satellite TV that gives us the Brisbane nightly news but no local warnings and zero mobile coverage.
“Four years after the Black Saturday fires we are as exposed as ever.”
Mr Stow said frustration was being replaced by a sense of futility.
“We had meetings with Peter Ryan and Bill Sykes before the last election and their promises led to nothing,” he said.
“Telstra has told us it is not viable to put up a tower.
“There was a fatal motorbike accident 18 months ago and a nasty one few months back.”
The member for Benalla Dr Sykes yesterday said while it was an important issue, it wouldn’t be fixed overnight.
“It needs federal support as well,” he said.
Telstra said it was discussing the coverage of remote areas with the state government but these discussions did not include this locality.