Volunteer Firefighter Charged After Allegedly Starting Over 30 Bushfires

January 23, 2021 Updated: January 23, 2021

A volunteer member of the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales (NSW) has been charged for deliberately lighting over 30 grass fires during bushfire season in late 2020.

NSW Police said in a media release that a 30-year-old man was arrested at a home in Whitton in the state’s south-central region just after 11 a.m. on Jan. 22.

A search warrant was executed at the home and police seized items of interest for forensic examination.

The arrest follows an extensive investigation by detectives from Murrumbidgee Police District who established Strike Force Rummery to look into the fires.

The man allegedly deliberately lit more than 30 separate spot fires in the Whitton area between November 2020 and January 2021.

He was taken to Griffith Police Station and charged with five counts of intentionally causing a fire and being reckless as to its spread.

On Jan. 23, he was refused bail and will appear before a judge at Wagga Wagga Local Court on Jan. 27.

The NSW Rural Fire Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Epoch Times Photo
A sign reading “We are survivors of the bushfires” is shown at Maurice Avenue round about in Mallacoota, Australia on Dec. 31, 2020. (Diego Fedele/Getty Images)

The arrest comes as the NSW Rural Fire Service warned of fire danger in parts of the state in the coming days.

“Fire danger over coming days will be tempered in most areas by recent rain & moderate winds. The area of concern continues to be around the Riverina where hot, dry & windy conditions on Monday are likely to lead to severe fire danger and possible total fire bans,” the service said on Twitter on Jan. 22.

During bushfire danger periods over the summer, fire permits are required in New South Wales.

The Australian landscape is prone to fires, which can become catastrophic when conditions are ripe, as was seen during the devastating 2019-20 bushfire season.

The “Black Summer” bushfires were made possible by climatic conditions triggered by a sudden warming event in the atmosphere above Antarctica in September, which fuelled raging fires across Australia for months. In New South Wales, the fires claimed 26 lives and destroyed 2,448 homes, according to the Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub.

Nationally, over 33 lives were lost, including nine firefighters, and more than 80,000 head of livestock, and millions of native plants and animals.

A royal commission into the bushfires was held, making some 80 recommendations.

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