Currandooley fire begs inquiry | Editorial

It would be wrong to characterise calls for a public inquiry into the Currandooley blaze as coming solely from anti-wind farm quarters.

The demand span much wider interests, including from affected landholders and those who “dodged a bullet.”

As Residents Against Jupiter Wind Farm member Dr Michael Crawford pointed out this week, there were many who knew they were lucky not to be burnt out. A change of wind, a water bomber arriving in the nick of time and varying fuel loads meant the difference between fate and fortune.

His argument is not about the merits or otherwise of wind farms, but of fire mitigation and response. It is also about high-voltage powerlines everywhere and whether measures that can be implemented to prevent another catastrophic fire like Currandooley.

As freakish as it sounds, and the theory is doubted by many, bird strikes on high voltage lines do spark fires. We know of at least two in the Taylors Creek area, both associated with the Capital Wind Farm, in the past month. On high fire danger days such as we are experiencing lately, it is a recipe for disaster.

South East Local Land Services chairman Tim de Mestre has joined calls for a broader inquiry, beyond the Rural Fire Service investigation. His 950 hectare property, ‘Merigan’ was almost entirely burnt, sending years of investment up in smoke.

The inquiry demand goes much wider as The Post knows from its travels around the fire ground.

So what would it achieve? Such an investigation could answer the question governments have never asked. That is, can wind farm infrastructure be improved and better measures be implemented to reduce fire risk in rural areas?

The technology has marched on, fuelled by governments hurtling towards unrealistic renewable energy targets. It’s time to take a breath and reassess.  

Lives and livelihoods have been dealt a heavy blow by the Currandooley fire. Infigen Energy’s donations to community groups in its wake are welcome but cold comfort to those affected. Beyond any coronial inquiry, the government and wind farm companies must implement change.

On a more heartening note, volunteer organisation BlazeAid will hit the ground next week, helping to repair and replace fencing. Out of devastation comes uplift, in true country style.

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