TWO houses have burned to the ground in Boggabilla in the last three weeks.
On May 24, an unoccupied house in Yeoman Street burned to the ground.
About 3pm on Sunday another unoccupied house, this time in Merriwa Street, met a similar fate.
“It was the fifth time we got a call to that job, so in the end we let it burn,” Garry Roberts, from the Rural Fire Service, said.
“You can’t go in that house because of the asbestos anyway.”
Mr Roberts said children had thrown rocks at firefighters attending the scene.
And this is far from the first time this has occurred.
Firemen have had rocks thrown at them, been abused, and had fires started around them as they battled to save Toomelah homes recently.
“We go out there to help, to save properties and possibly lives.
“We don’t expect rocks and abuse thrown at us,” Boggabilla Rural Fire Brigade Deputy-Captain, Graeme De Britt said.
“We’re volunteers. We don’t get paid. And if this abuse doesn’t stop we’ll have to think about whether we go out (to Toomelah),” he said.
“We’re not going to put members’ lives at risk,” he said.
In a recent incident the Boggabilla Rural Fire Brigade was called out to Toomelah; at risk, according to the call, was the Toomelah Public School but it was the Toomelah Hall (which was once the old Goondiwindi Anglican Hall) that was most at risk.
At one stage flames lapped under its floorboards, but that would never have happened Officer De Britt said, if they hadn’t been hampered by teenagers and 20-year-olds throwing abuse, hurling bottles and setting fires along the river and behind the fire engines.
On a previous call-out one officer was struck a glancing blow on his helmet by a large rock.
He said it was the size of shot-putt and thrown from 30 to 40m.
“He was lucky. If he’d been hit full-on it could have done serious damage, or even worse.”
When the brigade was called to Toomelah they went with a police escort from Boggabilla – a common practice due to early incidents of abuse and assault according to Mr De Britt.
Before arriving at the school they found “four or five” grass fires near the river.
A second fire engine continued into Toomelah.
An emergency call was sent out to the Boonal Rural Fire Brigade for a third truck. Moree police were also called to attend.
“We told the boys in the truck in Toomelah to stay inside after blokes in cars began to abuse them.”
While the other crew worked on the grassfires, arsonists sneaked behind the crews setting more fires.
“What if the wind had changed? It had the potential to flare-up and trap us and the truck,” Mr De Britt said.
Eventually the firies and the police managed to get the fires under control with minimal damage to property and no lives lost.
“I sincerely ask the community to think about what is happening. We are there to help not hassle.”
He said the young Toomelah “kids” were great.
The brigade conducts fire-safety programs at the school.
“But it’s the big kids, teenagers and 20 year-olds,” he said.
“We just don’t understand it. In the end we just won’t go out and we don’t want that, but we can’t put members’ lives at risk.”
Police reminded residents, and in particular young persons, that legislation is in place making the act of throwing a rock at a vehicle a crime, regardless of whether you hit it or not.
Superintendent Jenny Hayes said the offence would apply to any person who intentionally drops an object on or toward a vehicle or vessel on a road, rail or waterway.
Police have stressed the danger of the activity, and urges anyone who witnesses offenders throwing rocks at vehicles to contact them immediately.
Superintendent Hayes said, “the act of throwing a rock at a vehicle was not only cowardly and stupid, but it was downright dangerous and police have and will take action against all offenders”.
A 13-year-old male will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act following an incident in Boggabilla overnight Monday.
Meanwhile, the home which burnt in Boggabilla last month was one of the first homes in the town.
The home held a lot of memories for many people.
“I was on Facebook the other day and there were heaps of people saying how they remember playing in that big home,” Boggabilla resident Ngaire Roberts said.
“It was a lovely, old home.”
The home had been vacant for some time.
The fire began about 2am and residents in Boggabilla were shocked as the old weatherboard home was burnt to the ground.
“It had some accelerant in it,” firefighter Royce Lowe said.
Detective Inspector Gavin Rattenbury from the Barwon Local Area Command said police were looking for those responsible for both fires.
“It is hard to obtain forensic evidence, especially after a fire and rain.
“The other problem is that the house is full of asbestos,” Insp Rattenbury said.
“We need people to come forward.”
He said Barwon LAC had operations in place to “keep an eye” on juveniles, but said it was not possible to have an increased police presence in Boggabilla all the time.