THE captain of the Clunes Fire Brigade has fronted court after he was involved in a drunken call to emergency services, falsely reporting a fire at the pub where he was drinking.
Currently suspended from duty, Bradley Robert McNeight, 47, was at the National Hotel in Clunes on the evening of March 4 this year, where he used a mobile phone to report to the CFA a fire at the hotel.
McNeight gave details of the supposed fire, as well as information about injuries and a potential evacuation.
CFA members were notified following the call, including McNeight on a pager.
But upon receiving the page, the brigade captain realised what he had done and called back to say it was a false alarm.
No tankers had been deployed.
Yesterday McNeight appeared in Ballarat Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to a single charge of wilfully giving false fire alarm.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Bob Anderson said that when police interviewed McNeight afterwards he made full admissions of the offence.
He also admitted making a “stupid” mistake.
Defence lawyer Jacob Torney said his client had been drinking “very heavily” before the call took place, and said he was not the only one involved.
“He was not the person who made the initial call, but was handed a phone and provided details,” Mr Torney said.
“It was a situation where there was the capacity for community assets and resources to be misused.”
Mr Torney said McNeight had paid heavily for the prank, including public embarrassment after he was stood down as brigade captain.
“It’s a small town (Clunes), he’s known to many people there,” Mr Torney said.
“Since the incident he hasn’t hidden from the fact he made a grave mistake.”
The court heard McNeight has been a member of the Clunes Fire Brigade for more than five years, including 11 months as captain.
Magistrate Peter Couzens sentenced him to a 12-month good behaviour bond without conviction, but including an order to pay $500 to the court fund.
“You of all people understand the consequences of the charge ... being a member, and no doubt a proud member of the Clunes Fire Brigade,” Mr Couzens said.
“This shows how alcohol can impact upon a person’s judgement.
“But I accept this was totally out of character.”