Jul 18

Arson suspected in Swan Bay bushfire

Rural Fire Service crews from Bishops Bridge and East Maitland working on scrub in the Hunter Economic Zone in Pelaw Main . Picture: Ryan OslandDETECTIVES have been called in to investigate the Swan Bay fire which burnt out more than 1000 hectares of bush after initial investigations suggested it was the work of an arsonist.

On Saturday when the general public was warned of extreme temperatures and flame-fanning winds, fire crews were called to battle the blaze which continued to burn within containment lines on Tuesday.

Port Stephens police now believe they are hunting a firebug and have asked for the public’s help in identifying anyone who may have been in the vicinity of the fire.

However, fire crews believe they have an even bigger threat on their hands following the constant storms which have swept across parts of the Hunter in the past fortnight.

A lightning strike is suspected of having sparked the bushfire which threatened houses at Pelaw Main on Sunday after ripping through about 300 hectares of dry scrub.

And the weekend storms are also believed responsible for at least another 10 blazes which are burning in rugged terrain west of Cessnock.

Lower Hunter RFS zone manager Superintendent Jayson McKellar said fuel loads in parts of the region had dried out significantly and the prevalent of the ‘‘dry storms’’ had not played into firefighters hands.

‘‘We have had a lightning strikes reported and there has not been a lot of rain to go with them,’’ Superintendent McKellar said.

‘‘The place is definitely drying out, we need another good soaking.’’

There were more than 20 fires still burning across the greater Hunter on Monday, however none were out of control or threatening property.

Conditions were suiting firefighters as they contained and allowed the blazes to burn within the boundaries.