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Fireworks Decision Sparks Anger Amid Bushfire and Horse Safety

Oct 24, 2023

Three weeks ago Berambing resident Chris Azzopardi received a letter in the mail telling him that the wedding venue next door would be letting off fireworks over two weekends in November. Chris was in disbelief. Not only is the Chapel Hill Retreat situated in the heart of the Blue Mountains bush, the property is surrounded by neighbouring horses.

Berambing and Bilpin residents are furious. They claim they have not been consulted and that the decision has revived painful memories of the Gospers Mountain fire, which raged for a harrowing 53 days impacting the towns of Mt Tomah, Berambing, Bilpin, Kurrajong Heights, Bell, Mt Victoria and Blackheath burning 63700 hectares.

Azzopardi, who fought alongside his son for four gruelling days to save neighbouring properties during the inferno, is stunned that fireworks are being sanctioned in a region still haunted by the spectre of wildfires, particularly as residents are being told to be on high alert to protect their properties as the temperatures rise.

Chris Azzopardi intends to fight plans for two fireworks events at Berambing.

“I thought you’re bloody joking. My son and I spent four days going flat out putting out fires on their property, our property and neighbours’ properties. With the fire risk we have up here, this is not the place to have fireworks,” Azzopardi said.

“Secondly every house that neighbours this property owns horses and quite a few of them have quite a few horses. I’ve only got rural fencing, no one has post and rail fencing. And horses if they want to go, they will just go straight through a fence. It’s very dangerous. And I like everybody else here doesn’t want their horses injured. No one was approached about this, they were just given the letter saying it is happening,” he said.

Azzopardi, a horse owner and neighbour to Chapel Hill Retreat, recalled the shocking speed at which temperatures rose during the past bushfire season, with the Blue Mountains being particularly vulnerable to such events. He mentioned that the entire community has been on high alert to protect their properties and that the decision to allow fireworks in the area was deeply troubling.

The letter from a company called DazzleFX said they had been commissioned to provide two fireworks displays, one on Friday the 3rd November 2023 and the second on Friday 24th November, 2023.

“As with any fireworks, there will be considerable noise associated with the display. We understand that fireworks can be upsetting to animals, so please ensure any pets or livestock you have are secured. I sincerely thank you in advance for your understanding and consideration for your pets and livestock,” Hugh Olivier from DazzleFX wrote in a letter to residents.

An email from Chapel Hill Retreat to the Hawkesbury Post said the fireworks are organised by the couples. The email said they understood the concerns of the residents however believed that DazzleFX was taking all necessary precautions required.

Azzopardi said, “No one was approached about it; the concerns or anything we were just given the letter saying it was happening. It’s a total disregard for the area, for the residents, and for the safety of everything.”

According to the regulatory authority for fireworks Safework NSW the event organiser must have a supporting letter from the local council stating they have no objections and have notified the police, fire brigades and other relevant agency.

Azzopardi said he and other neighbours had also contacted the council but felt unheard and were unassured about the safety measures in place. 

Chapel Hill Retreat is planning to hold two fire works displays in November.

Olivier told the Hawkesbury Post that his fireworks business adheres to strict regulations and had obtained the necessary permits. He said they had collaborated with local authorities, shared risk assessments and safety plans, and addressed local concerns by providing information outlined in neighbourhood notifications.

“We have allocated an area which is a least 50 metres clear of all trees and shrubs, to ensure we have a safe area in which to fire the display. As part of our safety management plan, our crews will be equipped with firefighting equipment in the very unlikely event of spot fires near the shoot site,” Olivier said. 

“We have selected fireworks products taking into consideration minimising noise and any potential fall out over the shoot site,” he said. 

Azzopardi said he intends to pursue all possible avenues to stop the fireworks displays from taking place. He said there needs to be greater consideration for the safety of their properties and the well-being of their horses and animals.

Hawkesbury City Council did not respond to the Hawkesbury Post’s enquiries.

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