How Bushfires Are Caused 1893

Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), Friday 7 April 1893, page 3


HOW BUSH FIRES ARE CAUSED
SEWARD COMMITTED FOR TRIAL.

An elderly man, giving the name of Charles Seward, was brought up at the City Police Court (Mr Leader, D.M., presiding), yesterday, on remand charged with wilfully and maliciously setting fire to a fence belonging to Mr. N. Ingham, of Axedale, on the 29th of March. The prisoner pleaded not guilty.

.Sergeant Fahey, who conducted the prosecution, stated to the bench that the proceedings had been brought under the 196th section of the Crimes Act.

Napthalie Ingham, contractor quarryman, and licensed victualler, residing at Axedale, deposed that the prisoner called at his hotel on the 29th of last month, at about eight o’clock in the morning. Witness was behind the bar, and accused ordered a pint of beer, which was given him, and for which he paid. Accused said, “I have come from Melbourne. I am going to Toolleen to work for a man there for 8s per week and my keep.” Witness said, “You needn’t go any further, I’ll give you that.” Accused said, ” All right.” Witness wanted to put accused to work at once, and he said that he was not particular for that day.

Accused commenced to blow the bellows in the blacksmith’s shop, and witness said to him, “If you’re going to start work, you’d better get the axe and barrow, and go out for some firewood.” Accused replied, “The **** barrow is no good, and I can’t use it.”

Witness then told him that he had better “move on” along the road to the place he intended making for originally. Accused asked for a glass of beer, but witness refused to give him any. Accused then left the place.

That was about 10 o’clock in the morning. About four o’clock that afternoon, in consequence of something he heard, he visited his property, which is situated on the Toolleen road. He took two of his men with him. They found about half a mile of brush fencing burning. Witness and his men with the assistance of several other persons extinguished the fire. The damage to the fencing amounted to about £20, Witness was positive the accused was the man who was in the bar on the morning in question, and he did not give the man the slightest provocation.

Sergeant Fahey (to prisoner) : Have you any questions to ask the witness?
Prisoner : No. It is quite correct what he says.

.John Johnson, a laborer, working at Axedale, deposed that on the 29th of March, he was walking along the road from Axedale to Toolleen. When about four or five miles from Axedale, he saw that Mr. Ingham’s fence was on fire in two places. He got a green bough and tried to beat out the fire, but could not do so. He walked on for about 20 yards, when he came across the accused, who was just getting up after having set lire to the fence in another place. Prisoner : You did not.
Sergeant Fahey (to prisoner): You’ll have an opportunity of questioning the witness later on.

Witness continuing: The accused produced a card upon which the address of P. J. Cooney, Campaspe East, was written, and said ” Am I on the right track for that ?” Witness replied in the affirmative. Accused said to witness,” Did you see me drop my match?” and witness replied, ” Yes; you set fire to the fence.” Accused asked to whom the fence belonged, and witness replied that it was the property of Mr. Ingham. Accused said ” What? That Lancashire **** on the hill. If I had known it belonged to him I would have set fire to it in 40 **** places.” Witness and accused walked along the road for some distance until they reached the place where witness was cutting wood. Accused sat down on a log and told witness that he had been at Ingham’s, but left there as he did not like cutting wood for women, and besides, the wheel barrow was no good. He sat down on a log and afterwards went to sleep.

The P.M. : Did it not surprise you to see the man setting fire to the fence?
Witness : Yes. I couldn’t understand it unless he had a “down” on Mr. Ingham.
The P.M. : But in any case did it not surprise you?
Witness : Yes.
The P.M. Didn’t you try to put the fire out?
Witness: Yes. But I couldn’t do it, as the flames were over my head.
The P.M. Did the accused help you?
Witness : No. He walked on ahead.

To Sergeant Fahev : When I was returning home in the evening, I saw Mr. Ingham and some other men putting the fire out. I gave him a description of the man I had seen set fire to the place. A man named Collins was there, but he came after I had seen the accused set fire to the fence.

Prisoner: Was it not a mile away from the fire when you caught up to me ?
Witness : No, it, was not 200 yards.

The P.M. You said that you saw the prisoner getting off his knees after setting fire to the place? Witness : Yes.your worship, I was about 50 yards away when I saw him set fire to the fence. When he saw me he walked quickly away, so that it was about 200 yards from the fire before I caught up to him.

Prisoner: Did I.not sit down on a swag and wait for you?
Witness: No.

Sergeant Fahey: Have you any other question to ask?
Prisoner : It is no use asking him anything.
Sergeant Fahey : If you could shake his evidence, it would be of some use to you.

In reply to Sergeant Fahey, the witness stated that on the day following the occurrence, he gave a description of the man to Constable Haydon. He was positive that the accused was the man.

Prisoner: Did you see me set fire to the fence?
Witness : Yes I did.
Prisoner: You did not.

Sergeant Fahey : The witness is on his oath, and his statements must be accepted.

Mounted-constable Haydon deposed that the matter was reported to him on the evening of the 29th. He arrested the accused the same night, camped about a quarter of a mile from Toolleen. There was another swagman with him at the time. After looking at both men witness said to the prisoner, ” Where did you come from?”

Sergeant Fahey: Why did you address tho prisoner?
Witness : Because he tallied with the description given me by Mr. Ingham.
Sergeant Fahey : What did he say to your first question?

Witness stated that the accused said he came from Axedale. He produced a Labor Bureau ticket bearing the name of Chas. Seward and addressed to P. J. Cooney, Campaspe East. Witness told accused that he was charged with setting fire to Mr. Ingham’s fence, and he replied ” I never set fire to it, and anyone who says that I did would be telling a lie.” Accused was then taken into custody. On the following morning witness saw Johnson, who gave him a description of the man whom he had seen setting fire to the fence. The description tallied exactly with the accused.

This closed the case for the prosecution.

The P.M. (to the accused): You are at liberty now to make a statement if you choose, or you can be sworn and give evidence on your own behalf, but I tell you that on the evidence that has been adduced, you will be committed for trial. I would advise you to reserve your defence until the case comes on in the higher court.

The prisoner: I would like this court to deal with the case now.

The P.M: It cannot be dealt with here. It is a felony.

The accused was then committed to take his trial at the next sitting of the Supreme Court for the hearing of criminal charges, to be held on the 26th inst.

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

HOW BUSH FIRES ARE CAUSED. (1893, April 7). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved March 23, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88966378

©2021 copyright. All rights reserved axedalethenandnow.com

Destructive Fire Near Axedale 1901

From: Bendigo Advertiser, Monday 11 Feb 1901, page 4

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE NEAR AXEDALE.
A fire, which was destined to work considerable havoc, broke out on the banks of the Campaspe, to the south of Daley’s Hill, on Thursday afternoon. The fire originated close to Russell and White’s crushing battery, the cause of the outbreak being at present a mystery.

Owing to the high wind which prevailed, the fire swept with terrible rapidity in a southerly direction, and the small band of firefighters that assembled, found themselves quite unable to stay its progress. The half-mile which intervened between the starting point and the homestead of Mr. Thomas Burke was covered in the space of a few minutes and in spite of the efforts of those who were attempting to beat the fire out, the straw and hay stacks in the stack yard were all soon ablaze.

With practically no water supply available, it was found impossible; to do anything further to save the stacks, and the firefighters, who by this time had been augmented by a considerable number of men from Axedale and its vicinity, directed their efforts to saving the house and other buildings connected with the homestead. As the house stands close to the banks of the river it had practically to be guarded only on two sides, and the work of saving it was comparatively easy.

Some of the sheds and outbuildings were, however, destroyed. Shortly after passing Mr. Burke’s place the fire was got under control. In addition to having lost the whole of his year’s produce and several outbuildings, Mr. Burke had a quantity of fencing and grass destroyed. His loss is thus rendered a very serious one.

*Please note Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE NEAR AXEDALE. (1901, February 11). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88599767

©2020 copyright. All rights reserved axedalethenandnow.com

 

 

 

 

Axedale Bridge on Fire

from Bendigo Advertiser, September 1, 1890

THE AXEDALE BRIDGE 0N FIRE

VEHICULAR TRAFFIC SUSPENDED

 At about five o’clock on Saturday morning, a farmer named John McNeill, residing at Weston  was on his way into Sandhurst, and when crossing the bridge which spans the Campaspe, on the main road from Heathcote to Sandhurst, he noticed that  the structure was on fire. He at once roused up Mounted-Constable Hayden, who is in charge ofthe Axedale police station, and informed him of the matter. The constable. hastily dressing himself, ran over to the spot, and taking in at a glance  the position of affairs, and seeing that the fire had obtained a good hold on the woodwork, he sped  away to the township, a few hundred yards distant, and called up the residents, ordering them to  bring as many buckets and axes as they could lay hands on. Mr. J. Minter, of the Raglan Hotel took down his dray and two water tanks, and by this means a supply of water was obtained from the river. The volunteers with their buckets set to work to try and extinguish the flames, but their efforts were altogether futile as the fire had got in between the boards of which the floor of the bridge was composed.

While this work was proceeding, several narrow escapes from serious  accidents occurred. Several volunteers, in their eagerness to cope with the fire, rushed down the embankment under the bridge where the ashes of the debris which had accumulated there were some two or three feet deep. On top they were quite cold, but below the surface, the ashes were quite hot, and before the men could get out again their boots were somewhat scorched. While trying to get out of the ashes one of the men ran further under the bridge, when one of the burning boards from the flooring fell away, almost alongside him. Seeing that it was utterly useless to try and  extinguish the fire by means of water, the men set to work and cut the timber away so as to stop the further progress of the flames. In this they were more successful, and after considerable labor they managed to keep the fire confined to about thirty or forty feet of the bridge.

This portion however, was completely destroyed, as even yesterday afternoon the beams were burning away fiercely. On Saturday morning Mr. J. D. Bywater,who is a member of the M’lvor Shire Council  was on his way into Sandhurst when he heard of the fire. He at once engaged a number of gangers employed on the railway to try and put the fire out, and also to place timber across the roadway so as to prevent persons with vehicles passing along there.  

 On Saturday afternoon Mr.H. Robinson, the engineer of the shire, visited the scene of conflagration,and he expressed the opinion that it would be at least a month before any traffic could go across the bridge again, and it would be about three months before the necessary repairs could be completed. He roughly estimated the damage done at about £100. 

Before referring to the origin of the fire it is necessary to explain that the bridge is built of bluestone and timber. It is about 400 feet in length by 22 feet wide. There are about a dozen spans in the bridge, the abutments and piers being substantially built of bluestone, obtained at Mr. Ingham’s quarry in the vicinity. The girder, beams and supports are of red gum timber, while the hand-rails were made of softwood. The flooring consisted of two layers of thick red gum boards, covered with a coating of road metal. The bridge had to be made so long because the river at this point in time of flood is very wide; in fact, even long as the bridge is there have been times when the flood waters have risen over it. At the present time, however, the river, although pretty high, does not occupy more than four or five of the spans, leaving seven or eight spans on the McIvor side of the river, the embankment gradually descending from the  eastern end of the bridge, until it reaches the water.

An enormous quantity of debris has been brought down by the floods, and after the waters have receded the debris is left deposited on the embankment against the piers. This is a favorite camping ground for tramps and swagmen, and it is surmised that the fire was caused by some person who had camped there and left without  putting out the ashes after him.        

The debris soon ignited, and the flames  spread to the timber in the floor of the bridge,with the result described above. At any rate, that appears to be the popular belief amongst the  residents in the locality, and it was a noticeable fact that not one even suggested the thought that it had been caused maliciously.

The bridge was built by the Government some twenty-seven or more years ago, and was regarded as one of the best bridges in this part of the colony. It cost some thousands of pounds, and  it was on the main road from Heathcote to Sandhurst.It was extensively used by the travelling public, particularly farmers and woodcarters  doing business with this market.

The loss to these people through the traffic over the bridge being stopped—as there was a large quantity of timber and produce sent in here daily—will be something considerable, and no time should be lost before a temporary bridge is erected. It would be absurd to think of cutting off the traffic at that point for two or three months. Persons living in the vicinity are naturally very anxious to have the bridge replaced as soon as possible. With the river running at its present height, it is impossible for anyone to ford it.  

It is rather a curious circumstance that even so early as five o’clock on Friday night different persons saw  smoke coming from under the bridge, but they did not take any particular notice of the fact, surmising that, as usual some swagmen had camped there..    

On Saturday morning a number of people passed over it on their way to Sandhurst, and although they noticed the smoke they did not think anything serious was the matter. Their surprise may be better imagined than described. When making their return journey home, they found the bridge was impassable. They had to either stay in the township that night or make a detour of about 10miles over bad roads to Russell’s bridge, which is about 5 miles further along the river.  

There is no doubt the fire, whether caused wilfully orthrough accident or negligence, originated in the debris, and the McIvor council have comein for some pretty warm expressions of condemnation for having allowed the debris to accumulate  there to such an extent. At the Railway bridge, ashort distance away, men are engaged, after every flood to remove and burn the debris.  Had the council adopted the same plan the present trouble would not have arisen.

An investigation will probably be made to ascertain, if possible, the actual cause of the outbreak.

The burning bridge was inspected by a large number of people yesterday afternoon, some of them having driven many miles.