ALBURY coroner Gordon Lerve has dispensed with holding an inquiry into the $4.7 million Walla-Gerogery bushfire.
Mr Lerve yesterday said an inquiry would reveal nothing not already known about the December 17 blaze, which
destroyed five homes and killed more than 1000 sheep and cattle.
“It is apparent that the fire started at the Walla township rubbish tip some time after about 1.45pm,” Mr Lerve said.
“The actual cause of the fire cannot be determined on the available material.
“Further, it is my opinion that an inquiry would not be any more successful in determining the actual cause of the fire.”
Mr Lerve’s decision was met with mixed emotions from those affected, including volunteer firefighter Tony Halpin, whose Gerogery home was razed.
“There’d be nothing really to come out of (a coronial inquiry); it’d just be a waste of time and money,” he said.
“We knew it started at the tip and trying to work out what started it ... it could be multiple things — glass, spontaneous combustion — I don’t think we’d find anything going any further.”
Mr Halpin is among the fire victims involved in a class action against the Greater Hume Shire, as is Jim Bulman, who owns a small property at Gerogery.
Mr Bulman believes there should be a probe into why and how the blaze started and the council should be held accountable for its management of the tip.
“It’s not good enough,” he said last night.
Mr Lerve said in his reasons for dispensing with an inquiry, that the weather conditions on the day were appalling, with a temperature of 40.3 degrees and winds up to 107kmh, and the fire had spread very quickly over a large area.
“Due to the hard work and efforts of many local citizens and local fire brigades, the fire was eventually extinguished at Gerogery,” he said.
A detailed list of losses shows five houses destroyed, four damaged, 17 outbuildings burnt down, six vehicles lost, 1005 sheep and 173 cattle killed, 248km of fencing and 471.3ha of unharvested crop burnt.
Mr Lerve said long-time Walla resident and fire captain John Jacob believed the fire had started in combustible material, such as grass clippings, at the tip.
Mr Lerve said experienced and qualified fire investigator Stephen Walker believed the fire had started at the tip and spread at a rapid rate.