Smoke fills the air after a ferocious fire tore through a property at Coonarr last week, which the land’s owners believe was arson.
Smoke fills the air after a ferocious fire tore through a property at Coonarr last week, which the land’s owners believe was arson. Contributed

Beach fire arson

A CONFLICT between private landowners and campers over access to Coonarr Beach is believed to have led to an arson that ripped through hundreds of acres, killed wildlife and threatened lives last week.

Mal Tomlins, who manages a large parcel of land at Coonarr, received a call last weekend that the property was going up in flames and 18 fire crews were battling to extinguish it.

Mr Tomlins claims someone had been illegally "hooning around" the property, causing $4500 of damage to fences, when they became stuck on a pile of wood.

"They bottomed out and couldn't get out, so it looks like they've got another vehicle in and pushed more fences down," he said.

Mr Tomlins said he had cameras all over the property and he believed the hoons set fire to the land to erase the proof they had been there.

"They lit the timber stacks up with marine flares," he said.

"They put the lives of a lot of people at extreme risk."

"They had to evacuate the people at the beach and they put the people at Kinkuna on alert. What if someone had died because of their stupidity?"

Mr Tomlins said the blaze raged for several days, burning about 350 acres or 140-150 hectares of land, with fire fighters finally leaving on Wednesday night.

"They've turned the place into white ash," he said.

"They've killed an enormous amount of timber and wildlife."

Mr Tomlins said the property had recently been fenced off to be turned into a cattle station, meaning some access points to the beach were now cut.

He said the incident had members of the community angry and fearful of a repeat occurrence.

"Apparently this has been their fishing haunt and playground for years, but we've turned it into a cattle property," he said.

"I just can't fathom why they'd do this - it appears to be out of sheer jealousy."

Bundaberg man John Wood said prior to the land being fenced off, he would regularly use the access roads to get to the beach.

"The public access has now been completely blocked off, so I go to Palm Beach instead," he said.

"I think the reason people are angry is because they have been going there for years and there was never an explanation as to why the access was cut.

"In saying that, it's not Mal's fault that we can't get there."

Rural Fire Service Queensland Bundaberg director of rural operations Tony Johnstone said fire inspectors were investigating the incident alongside police.

Mr Johnstone said two firefighters had to be taken to hospital due to the fire, one who was burned and another who had breathing difficulty.

"They are fine now. We took them (to hospital) as a precaution," he said.

Bundaberg police Inspector Kev Guteridge urged anyone with information to come forward either to police by calling 4153 9111 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



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