By Rebecca Peppiatt
Wooroloo residents have this week been devastated to learn the bushfire that tore through their community in February, destroying 86 homes, was entirely preventable.
Arson Squad detectives charged 40-year-old Daniel Gunter Preuss last week after a five-month investigation led them to believe he was using an angle grinder at his home in Wooroloo on the day the fire started.
It is alleged Mr Preuss used the grinder to remove a padlock on a sea container located on his property subsequently igniting the fire on February 1 that burned 10,750ha of bushland.
Police also allege he did not take action to prevent the fire starting as is required during catastrophic fire conditions.
Jessica Blackwell, who lost her Tilden Park home in the fire, said while the outcome of the investigation did not change things for her, she was angry the fire was preventable.
“Anyone that owns an angle grinder or has used one, knows it’s a fire risk on dry grass,” she said.
“It doesn’t even matter if it’s a total fire ban.”
Mr Preuss has been charged with one count of Breach of Duty and one count of Carry out an activity in the open air that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment.
“If someone didn’t take proper precautions and didn’t call the fire brigade straight away, then they probably deserve jail time,” Ms Blackwell said.
“Countless lives have been torn apart.
“It’s just lucky nobody died.”
In 2011 a similar incident occurred in Roleystone when an off-duty police officer also allegedly started a blaze that destroyed 71 homes by using an angle grinder during a total fire ban.
Charges against him were ultimately dropped.
The City of Swan and Shire of Mundaring released a joint statement in response to the charges stating they will allow the court process to continue without giving further comment on the investigation.
Mr Preuss faced Northbridge Magistrates Court on Saturday, July 17 where he was refused bail.
He will appear again before Perth Magistrates Court on Friday, July 30.