A HEAVY machinery business owner is embroiled in a dispute with the NSW Rural Fire Service for his company's assistance in the Oaklands fire last December.
Andrew Goldman is unhappy the fire service has rejected a $7400 payment to him for establishing two fire breaks and helping contain the blaze which broke out about 200 metres from where his crew was working at a Graincorp depot on the same day.
The RFS has informed Mr Goldman he won't be paid because he didn't place a purchase order for the works.
He acknowledges normal procedures weren't followed, but there were extenuating circumstances with the fast-moving grassfire which started in a haystack and quickly spread to more 2270 hectares due to strong northerly winds and hot conditions.
The fire's potential was so bad a DC-10 air tanker was summoned from Sydney to help and prevent the blaze from jumping Federation Way near Daysdale.
“It was a really bad situation,” Mr Goldman said.
“We had loaded fuel tankers in paddocks nearby and shedding was already alight.
“The fire was just rampant.
“We were aware of the RFS requirements, but we were also in an emergency situation with an extremely quick moving fire which was dangerous to fight.”
Mr Goldman said the extraordinary circumstances on the day should be acknowledged by RFS.
“To be brutally honest the purchase order was the furthest thing from my mind at that time,” he said.
“I was looking after my men because we were having so much trouble controlling the fire.”
Mr Goldman said he had held RFS accreditation to assist in fires for about five years.
The December 13 fire also destroyed a shearing shed and two vacant farmhouses with harvesting suspended before noon due to the volatile weather conditions experienced on the day.
A week later Mr Goldman was sent a thank you letter from the Oaklands fire brigade which, in part, said: “Having your graders, water tankers and team of men helped greatly near the Graincorp site in Oaklands to try and contain the fire and we would like to express our gratitude”.
The fire service has responded to Mr Goldman's claim and confirmed further investigations were taking place.
“The NSW Rural Fire Service has discussed a number of discrepancies with the operator regarding the disputed invoice,” a spokesman said.
“Heavy plant operators must be formally engaged to undertake work on NSW RFS controlled fire grounds.
“Further enquiries are continuing into the matter.”