A WITNESS to the Black Saturday Weerite-Pomborneit fire has told the Supreme Court she assumed the only logical reason for the fire was a flare she saw on a power pole transmitter moments earlier.
Dairy farmer Kerry-Lynne Callow, of Macarthur, told the court in Warrnambool yesterday she was driving along the Camperdown side of the Weerite overpass when she witnessed a blue flare from a power pole which lasted for two to three seconds.
Ms Callow’s evidence was heard by Justice Jack Forrest as part of the Weerite-Pomborneit class action against Powercor.
She said the flare was on the left side of the road and rolled back with a yellow flame before it disappeared.
Ms Callow said that as a farmer she was aware that transformers were renowned for malfunctioning and power poles for starting fires. After seeing the flare she slowed down to look at the power pole but could not see anything wrong with it, then a fire caught her eye on the right side of the road.
Ms Callow said she assumed the flare started the fire because it was the only logical reason for it.
“I have no doubt the two events were connected,” she said.
Ms Callow said when it was safe to do so she pulled over and called triple-0 and within a minute or two of the call she saw a CFA slip-on tanker coming towards her.
On Tuesday the court heard from Terrence Place, the lead plaintiff, who said when he arrived at the fire in a slip-on, he saw a car which had stopped on the north side of the highway near a dairy.
The court also heard from dairy farmer Regina Beal, from Danedite Road in Weerite, who said the weather was horrendous on February 7, 2009.
She said sometime after lunch she was sitting in the dining room facing south when she noticed a large bright metallic flash of light between Peter Hay’s old dairy and the start of the overpass.
She said there was a power flicker about the same time but she could not say in which order they occurred. She said soon after she saw a stream of smoke close to the overpass which was picked up by the wind and “exploded”.
In cross-examination, counsel for Powercor, David Curtain, put it to Mrs Beal that if the flames were waist height she wouldn’t be able to see them, which she said was true.
Beef farmer Peter Hay, from Wiridgil Lane, Weerite, who told the court he had been a farmer for more than 50 years, said that since Ash Wednesday in 1983 he had mowed the area to the north side of the Princes Highway from Danedite Road to his disused dairy, which was east of the power lines.
Mr Hay said on Black Saturday he was manning the Weerite station with other CFA volunteers.
He said after lunch he noticed the lights flicker and the Weerite brigade captain stepped outside to have a look. He said the captain saw smoke and they immediately headed to the fire.
Cross-examined by Dugald McWilliams, also representing Powercor, Mr Hay said a lot of the Pomborneit country was impossible to mow because it was very stoney.
When it was put to Mr Hay that his statement for the Royal Commission did not include the flicker of lights at the CFA station and that he had been mistaken, Mr Hay said he was not and denied having included it in his evidence yesterday after talking to someone about it.
The case is continuing.