A quick-thinking Aussie man has been hailed a hero for springing to action in the aftermath of an illegal act that could have caused an environmental disaster.
Dominic, who runs a chauffeur company, spotted what appeared to be an escalating fire while driving a passenger along a busy highway on Thursday, and swiftly pulled over to take matters into his own hands.
"I saw the smoke on the side of the road," Dominic told Yahoo News Australia. "I was doing 110km/h and I decided to pull over and I told the client, 'I have to deal with this'. We've had a lot of rain but the leaves on the side of the road were quite dry. A cigarette was there in the fire; a rollie."
The incident occurred on the M1 near Brunswick Heads in northern NSW, where fire danger is fresh in the minds of locals following horrific bushfires in the area a few weeks ago. The blazes destroyed 740ha of land between Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads, Dominic told Yahoo.
Firefighters spent days trying to control the inferno, which was helped along by hot, dry and windy conditions. A total fire ban is now in place for large parts of NSW due to the high risk of more bushfires.
"This was just north of there and a similar type of bushland," Dominic told Yahoo. "It would have been devastating. If I had left it three more minutes, the fire would have been up in the trees. It was starting to run up there, towards the trees, which were only a couple of metres away."
Dominic's bravery and quick thinking stopped a horrifying situation from unfolding but unfortunately for him, he lost a "decent pair of leather Converse" while stamping out the flames.
"No one else stopped," he said of fellow motorists, before adding he was planning to keep a fire extinguisher or a five-litre bottle of water in his car in case something similar happened again.
On social media where he shared dashcam footage of the incident, the operator of Byron Chauffeur was praised for being a "hero" and taking action. "Thanks for doing that, that could have been a repeat of the last big fire," one local wrote. "Great job thinking quickly and acting."
Another stated, "WTF is wrong with people!? Good on you mate. Well done!"
"Good work," a third added. "I can't believe people still throw their butts outside."
Motorists face $11k fine for cigarette butt act
A NSW Rural Fire Service spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia putting out small fires before they spread was encouraged "if it's safe to do so and appropriate", but people should always prioritise their own safety, especially when stopping along a busy road.
In the case of a fire that looked dangerous or was getting out of control, the advice is to "immediately call Triple-0".
"Throwing lit cigarette butts from cars and trucks is dangerous," a NRFS spokesperson said. "Cigarettes can start bush and grass fires, and place lives at risk. It's also bad for the environment. There are heavy penalties for people caught throwing lit cigarette butts from vehicles, especially on days of a total fire ban."
The NRFS encourages members of the public to "report a tosser" by filling out an online form including the date, time, and location details, along with a description of the suspected offender's vehicle and licence plate.
Tough penalties including a $660 fine and five demerit points apply for those caught discarding a lit cigarette from a vehicle, which increases to a whopping $11,000 fine and 10 demerit points for doing so during a total fire ban. Fines also apply to passengers.
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