Man jailed for starting Glen Iris bush fire

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
The blaze on March 10.
Camera IconThe blaze on March 10. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

A 24-year-old Picton man who was drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in bushland before flicking a cigarette butt and sparking a massive bushfire will spend at least nine months behind bars.

Brandon Ray Hall was last week sentenced in Bunbury District Court over the March 10 bushfire, which threatened several Glen Iris properties and severely damaged one home.

Brandon Ray Hall leaves court after his first appearance.
Camera IconBrandon Ray Hall leaves court after his first appearance. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

The out-of-control blaze burnt through 168ha of land in Glen Iris and Picton and forced the closure of Forrest Highway and residents to be evacuated.

Resident Ross Grasso – who was asleep in his home at the time of the fire – spoke to the South Western Times the day after the blaze and told of his lucky escape and the extensive damage caused to his house.

Ross Grasso inspects the damage in the days after the blaze.
Camera IconRoss Grasso inspects the damage in the days after the blaze. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

In court, Hall pleaded guilty to one count of being a person in control of a source of ignition and failing to use reasonable care and precautions to avoid lighting a fire.

The court was told, Hall tried to extinguish the flames with beer and sand, but the hot and windy conditions caused the blaze to grow “rapidly”.

The blaze on March 10.
Camera IconThe blaze on March 10. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

Hall ran to a nearby petrol station and emergency services were called.

Fire crews battled the blaze into the night with the cost of fighting the fire and damage caused totalling about $624,000.

Hall later handed himself in to police.

The blaze on March 10.
Camera IconThe blaze on March 10. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

The court was told, Hall’s actions breached a suspended prison sentence over a 2017 incident in which he assaulted a supermarket worker in Eaton after trying to steal food.

Defence lawyer Ian Macfarlane argued that any jail time over the bushfire could be suspended due to Hall’s remorse and his attempts to put out the fire.

The blaze on March 10.
Camera IconThe blaze on March 10. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

The court was told of Hall’s “out-of-control lifestyle” of mental health issues and substance abuse including methamphetamine, but his “main poison” was alcohol.

But Mr Macfarlane, Judge Belinda Lonsdale and State prosecutor Gary Huggins agreed, Hall’s actions were not the result of any substance, but his negligence.

The blaze on March 10.
Camera IconThe blaze on March 10. Credit: Jon Gellweiler / South Western Times

Judge Lonsdale said she accepted Hall was remorseful and ashamed, but his criminal negligence had “massive consequences”.

“People need to know that if they are careless with their cigarette butts and cause fires, then there will be severe consequences for them,” Judge Lonsdale said.

Hall was sentenced to 18 months jail plus a further seven concurrent months for the breached order and was made eligible for parole after nine months.

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