The Blue Mountains bushfire that claimed more than 200 properties might have been prevented by a $100 tree maintenance job. A tree with cables running through its branches is believed to be the seat of the fire that jumped a road then engulfed houses in Springwood, Winmalee and Yellow Rock.
Fairfax Media has established an order to prune the tree was issued by a power company in July.
On Friday the tree was surrounded by police tape and was photographed by inspectors from Endeavour Energy.
Resident Marilyn Stubbs said she heard noises on Thursday, which sounded like cables arcing, before the fire jumped to bush across the road.
Ms Stubbs’ property adjoins the property with the tree in Linksview Road, Springwood, the site used to identify a fire that has burned out more than 2000 hectares and which once again reached emergency status on Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the year, Ms Stubbs said, she had received a notification from Endeavour Energy asking her to cut back foliage near electrical cables, which appeared to relate to a straggly grevillea. She said her neighbour, a tenant, told her he had received a similar document relating to the large tree at the front of his landlord’s property.
Ms Stubbs said: “I was lying on my bed and heard a twanging and zinging. The crackling was right outside my bedroom window towards next door.
“The document from Endeavour was headed ‘Customer Vegetation Report’ and dated July 9. It stated the electricity service supply had been recently inspected to ensure sufficient safety clearance between cables and nearby vegetation.”
The document added in red type in block capitals: ‘NOTE IF YOU ARE NOT THE OWNER OF THIS PROPERTY PLEASE FORWARD THIS REPORT TO THE PROPERTY OWNER OR YOUR AGENT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
‘We have noted tree/s adjacent to the overhead service line/s located on this property are in contact with the lines. A minimum clearance of 500mm from the lines is required. You need to make arrangements to have the tree/s trimmed to maintain this specified clearance as a matter of urgency.’’
“My neighbour, he said he got a letter,’’ Ms Stubbs said. “He said he passed it to his real estate.’’
No homes were lost in Linksview Road, saved by emergency services, especially low flying helicopter water bombing.
“We just can’t thank those fearless helicopter pilots enough,” she said.
Another witness, Louise Forrest, believed she witnessed the fire before starting work in Springwood at 1.25pm.
She heard an explosion while walking to her car in Linksview Road, then saw a thick stream of black smoke rising before she rang Triple 0.
Within the next five minutes, due to strong winds, the fire appeared above the trees at the end of Thomson Avenue.
Ms Stubbs added it was all “just too quick, the wind just went so quickly ... We feel terrible for all these people on the other side [the east], it’s just horrible.”