A Snake Valley farmer has denied he acted negligently despite a class action launched against him in relation to starting the Chepstowe bushfire.
The January 8 blaze burnt 1300 hectares and destroyed a number of properties, including the historic Carngham Station.
In a writ lodged in the Supreme Court this week, lead plaintiff Valerie Ellen Jackson claimed Shaun Breen acted negligently by driving his ute onto dry stubble at his Snake Valley property on the day of the fire.
The writ states Mr Breen was negligent by parking the ute on dry vegetation and leaving it unattended on a day of high fire risk.
But Mr Breen has hit back, telling The Courier he has had the support of the Snake Valley community following the fire.
“As primary producers, we do everything in our power to avoid these situations,” he said.
“We certainly weren’t negligent.”
Mr Breen said he was surprised the lawsuit had been filed against him, but indicated there was nothing he could do but “let it play out”.
“The whole town is behind me,” he said.
“After the fire, the support from the community absolutely blew me away, so I was surprised (about the case).
The class action is being driven by at least eight victims of the Carngham fire, led by Ms Jackson.
The writ states it was “reasonably foreseeable” to Mr Breen that parking the ute on dry grain stubble could cause a fire, that such a fire could spread and that such a fire could cause injury or death.
Ms Jackson claims the Chepstowe bushfire caused extensive damage to her land, including fences, buildings, pasture, gardens and trees.
It is also claims the plaintiffs suffered loss to personal property, including stock, hay, farm equipment, machinery, tools and personal effects.
“Physical inconvenience” was also suffered by Ms Jackson, according to the writ.
Maddens Lawyers’ Brendan Pendergast said it was “way too early” to determine the amount of damages, interest and costs sought by the plaintiffs.
He said the class action would be advertised in the “next few months” and property owners would be invited to join the lawsuit against Mr Breen.
The matter will be heard at the Supreme Court at Ballarat at a date to be set.