THE man responsible for starting a fire that got out of control near Beaufort last year avoided conviction yesterday.
Gregory Lancey, 59, pleaded guilty in the Ballarat Magistrates Court to leaving a fire unattended in the open without a person in charge.
The court heard that on October 29 last year, Lancey was burning off at his 525-hectare Eurambeen property when he went back to his house to eat lunch.
He left a smouldering pile unattended, which flared up while he was away.
It caught onto a nearby bluegum plantation and eventually burning about 15 hectares of private land.
Police prosecutor Acting Sergeant Ivan Blomeley said the fire burnt for about three hours and injured one CFA firefighter, who suffered smoke inhalation.
Lancey had not informed the CFA or any other authorities of the burn-off.
Defence lawyer Robert Wilkinson said his client was burning off in a period when open fires were allowed.
“At no stage did it look as though the fire would burn out of control,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“He couldn’t believe it when he went home for a short time and looked back and the fire had taken off.”
Magistrate Michelle Hodgson said the fact Lancey had no previous criminal history contributed to her decision not to convict him of the charges.
However, Ms Hodgson warned of the dangers of fires.
“They can be absolutely devastating in terms of loss of property and loss of lives,” she said.
Lancey was fined $2000.