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A WOMAN, 55, from Albury has been charged with lighting a fire that went on to burn about 30 hectares of bush on Nail Can Hill yesterday.
Authorities say different wind conditions could have seen the blaze threaten houses, with nearby residents told to action their Bush Fire Survival Plans.
It is unknown why the woman lit the fire around 2.30pm on a total fire ban day but police say it wasn’t malicious.
Once the fire got out of control, she then neglected to report it to emergency services.
Albury Police Inspector Kim Sorensen said it was “more likely” a case of carelessness.
“She drove into the bush and lit the fire, then she didn’t report it,” he said.
“There was no intent to start a bushfire.”
Flames engulfed a car believed to be owned by the woman, which at first was thought to be where the fire originated.
The blaze then rushed up the eastern ridge of the hill, inaccessible to fire trucks, where a Firebird helicopter was sent in to water bomb the area to stop it spreading to the other side.
Immediate concerns were for properties bordering the area, with crews sent in to hold the fire from each side.
At 4.30pm, the fire was reported at less than two hours from houses, with residents in Jacaranda Street and Yambla Avenue instructed to put their survival plans in place.
It took more than three hours for around 80 Rural Fire Service personnel and 20 firefighters from Albury NSW Fire and Rescue to contain the blaze.
Albury Rural Fire Service Insp Marg Wehner said they were very fortunate that wind speeds were low but dry fuel meant the fire had been able to spread quite quickly.
“At one stage we thought Jacaranda Street was under threat,” she said.
Insp Wehner said no houses were ever under direct threat but a north-westerly wind could have led to disastrous circumstances.
“If we hadn’t have been able to hold it on the ridge it could have burnt into the back of Yambla Avenue,” she said.
Insp Sorensen condemned the woman’s “dangerous” actions, saying the fire could have been a lot worse had it not been for the efforts of the firefighters.
“I’m appalled people can put people’s lives at risk by doing things like this,” he said.
“If you light fires when you’re not supposed to, we’ll certainly do all we can to deal with you.”
The woman was arrested at a West Albury home and taken to Albury police station where she was charged with intentionally causing fire and being reckless to its spread.
She was bailed to appear at Albury Court on January 14.
Late last night, fire crews burnt a small section of bushland to prevent the blaze spreading in today’s hot weather.
About a dozen firefighters stayed overnight to patrol and continue dousing the flames.
They will stay on site for several days as burning timber in the area could reignite.
Residents and on-lookers have been warned to stay away from the area.