Police suspect arsonist lit grass fire
POLICE suspect an arsonist lit a fire which briefly threatened Grafton Base Hospital late this afternoon.
The fire, which was one of a number which sprang up around the Grafton area during the afternoon, was burning in the gully between Arthur and Crown streets between the hospital and a retirement home.
The officer overseeing the police operation, Sergeant Darren Williams, said the fire was brought under control fairly quickly, but was burning in an area where it could have caused problems.
He said the hospital and nursing home were major concerns and there were also a number of houses which backed onto the area.
"He was lucky. It's arson, but if a house goes up, people are killed, then it's murder," he said.
Sgt Williams said police said police were aware of a deliberately lit fire in South Grafton earlier in the afternoon.
"A man in a silver Commodore was seen to light a fire near the railway line in South Grafton," Sgt Williams said.
"He was reported to have driven off toward Orara."
He did not say if the cause of the two fires was linked.
Sgt Williams said the Rural Fire Service brigades were on the scene quickly and did a good job putting out the blaze before it became threatening.
Local RFS commander John Page said the fuel loads in the gully were heavy, which would mean the brigades would be at the scene for some time making sure there were no further outbreaks.
He said Grafton City and Lawrence brigades attended because other fire fighters were attending the blaze in South Grafton.
Sgt Williams said emergency services were called to the fire around 4.45pm.
Around 5.30pm an ambulance was called to treat a firefighter. Without confirmation, it appears he was suffering from chest pains.
Firefighters were gathered around a colleague lying on the ground near the Lawrence tanker.
FIREFIGHTERS are battling two fires in the Grafton area, one of which could have led to the evacuation of Grafton Base Hospital.
On arrival at the Arthur St fire emergency services saw the blaze was heading close to the hospital and discussed evacuating.
However the latest information indicates the fire is under control.
We have a reporter on scene and will bring you more information as it comes to hand.
Another reporter has attended an out of control grass fire in South Grafton's Bessie St.
http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/dsp_content.cfm?cat_id=683 for more information.