News National Man charged over firefighter death as bushfire threat flares up

Man charged over firefighter death as bushfire threat flares up

Matt Kavanagh, pictured with wife Jude, died on the job during Victoria's bushfire crisis.
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A man has been charged over the death of Victoria’s third bushfire victim, an on-duty Forest Fires Management worker.

The 46-year-old man from Alexandra was charged on Monday with dangerous driving causing the death over the fatal head-on car crash in that killed Matt Kavanagh, 43, and seriously injured his colleague.

The accused man had been fighting for life in hospital after the collision on the Goulburn Valley Highway at Thornton on January 3, while a 47-year-old ute driver was injured.

He has been remanded to appear in court on April 28.

Mr Kavanagh is survived by his wife Jude, six-year-old son Ruben and four-year-old daughter Kate.

Mr Kavanagh was killed and his colleague seriously injured on January 3. Photo: Victorian government

The charges come as the fire threat across the state’s east came under renewed danger on Monday afternoon, with an emergency warning in Victoria’s far east, despite cooler weather elsewhere in the state.

The Cann Road Bridge fire flared up on Monday afternoon with an emergency warning issued for Noorinbee and Noorinbee North, near the NSW border.

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive,” the warning said.

It comes as the fire threat across the state’s east was slightly downgraded, with all alerts across Victoria sitting at a watch and act level or lower at 4pm on Monday.

Milder weather is forecast across the week with rain developing in the state’s east on Wednesday and extending at least until Saturday.

Despite the respite, temperatures will remain about 30C and winds are still gusting, meaning the danger lingers and fires show no sign of relenting.

There are 19 active fires across Victoria and 1500 firefighters remain on the job.

Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington said firefighters will now move into each danger zone to track the fires.

“There is very, very active fire right in the middle of this that will continue to burn for some weeks if not months,” he said on Monday.

“Moving through January and February any new starts we could potentially have as well – we need to get on top of those as quickly as we possibly can.”

Promise of rain in NSW

Rain is set to ease bushfire conditions and provide much-needed relief for NSW fire crews who are focused on strengthening containment lines across active blazes.

NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Bradstreet said fire conditions are expected to ease on Monday and throughout the week with rain on the horizon.

“We would love rain everywhere,” he told AAP on Monday.

“Hopefully we will receive some good rainfall in fire affected areas.”

Rain is forecast for pockets of the central and northern coasts on Monday, with thunderstorms and showers forecast for most of NSW on Thursday when up to 25 millimetres is expected to fall on parts of the South Coast.

Mr Bradstreet warned thunderstorms could create the risk of falling trees and landslips.

Crews will take advantage of the easing conditions to establish and strengthen containment lines for some 40 bushfires which are not yet contained, he added.

The RFS has said there are more than 100 fires still burning across the state and many will take some time to fully contain.

Air quality across much of the state including Sydney was very poor on Monday as a result of smoke from the bushfires.

Hazardous air quality was recorded in parts of Sydney’s northwest, southwest, the Illawarra, Albury and Wagga Wagga.

Firefighters on Sunday brought under control one of the county’s most damaging blazes – the Gospers Mountain fire which has burned for two-and-a-half months northwest of Sydney.

“After lightning started the fire on October 26, it has burnt through more than 512,000 hectares across the Lithgow, Hawkesbury, Hunter Valley, Cudgegong, Blue Mountains and Central Coast local government areas,” the Hawkesbury
RFS said on Facebook.

“It is important to remember not to be complacent as there are still a few months of the bushfire season to go with some bushland that still has not been burnt.”

-with AAP