A WODONGA builder who set fire to blackberry bushes has apologised to DSE and CFA fire crews who had to battle the blaze after it began to burn out of control.
Dale Paddle, 40, set fire to the bushes at his property in the Tallangatta Valley on April 6 because he wanted to gain access to firewood.
Wodonga Magistrates’ Court was told yesterday it was illegal for Paddle to light any kind of fire at the time, as the prohibited period did not expire until April 8.
The court was told Paddle lit the fire about 3pm and it burnt for three hours, at which time the wind picked up and it began to set trees alight.
The fire was being fanned by a southerly breeze and the smoke caught the attention of DSE personnel in a fire tower.
Both the DSE and CFA went to the scene but had to abandon the fight overnight due to the risk of falling trees.
Seven CFA members returned the next day.
The court was told the fire burnt 400 metres from state forest and a pine plantation.
Paddle’s solicitor Derek Norquay said the offence was out of character and his client was “a solid citizen”.
He said there had been six inches of rain in March and the ground was wet.
“The fire did take off but it was as green as one could get,” he told the court.
He said the fire had not caused any damage to adjoining property and that Paddle wanted to apologise for taking up the valuable time of firefighters from the DSE and CFA.
He said Paddle had been mistaken when he thought he heard a radio advertisement announcing the end of the prohibited fire period on the day of the fire.
“The circumstances of this offence were very innocent,” he told magistrate Susan Armour.
Ms Armour told Paddle “this was a significant event”.
“While it was just outside the prohibited period, there are reasons why those conditions have to be observed,” she told him.
Paddle was put on a 12-month good behaviour bond without conviction and ordered to pay $1000 to the Tallangatta Valley CFA.
He was also ordered to pay compensation of $1602.