DESPERATE attempts by a man who was badly burnt trying to put out the bushfire he accidentally started on New Year’s Eve at Long Point has convinced Orange Local Court he has been punished enough.
Lance Colin Pennings walked from court yesterday with a two-year good behaviour bond for letting off fireworks that started a fire and burnt out 475 hectares of land at Long Point in the days following New Year’s Eve.
Pennings rubbed his arm when his solicitor Mason Manwaring was asked by magistrate Bruce Williams how badly his client was burnt.
“He’s healing but he still bears the scars,” Mr Manwaring told the magistrate.
Mr Williams told the court he had a difficult decision to make in sentencing Pennings.
He said he needed to balance his obligations under legislation, which included an option of imprisonment or fines up to $100,000, and the lengths Pennings went to on the night to put out the fire.
The court heard Pennings swam across the river with a fire extinguisher that he turned on the fire. When it ran out, he took his shirt off to try and beat out the flames.
Before deciding on a penalty for Pennings, Mr Williams asked police prosecutor Andy Bobin for his opinion,.
“It was a risk but he took a fire extinguisher and other precautions and it’s not like he went out their willy-nilly,” Mr Bobin said.
“He set the fireworks off after he looked for a cleared space - when you look at all the facts it was bad luck.”
Mr Williams said jail was not appropriate for Pennings due to his efforts on the night.
“Some people might say, ‘Why doesn’t he go to jail?’ and you could just see that on the front page of the Daily Telegraph,” Mr Williams said.
“But I have to balance out the seriousness of the offence with the fact the community can see that on reflection you did risk your own life.”
There was some discussion in the courtroom between prosecution and defence as to the status of fire bans in place at the time, however Mr Bobin told Mr Williams the fire ban did not come into effect until the following day.
One of the landholders in the area has lodged an application with the court for Pennings to pay compensation of $32,000 for fence replacement, however Mr Manwaring said it was not part of the police facts for the case and a date in April had been set down for a compensation hearing.