Wednesday 11 December 2019

Volunteer fireman charged with 'setting multiple bushfires' - some of which he helped to put out

Burning up: Mountains in NSW are shrouded in smoke. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Reuters
Burning up: Mountains in NSW are shrouded in smoke. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Reuters

Gene Shannon

A volunteer fireman has been charged after allegedly setting multiple blazes in Australia, some of which he then helped to put out.

The country is still struggling to contain one of its worst bushfire seasons on record.

Almost 130 bush and grass fires are burning around the state of New South Wales.

Experts fear that the crisis could become worse when summer begins next month, heating the bush even further.

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Queensland has also been affected, with hundreds of firefighters deployed across both states.

NSW police Detective Inspector Scott Nelson said yesterday that the 19-year-old man - a volunteer for the Rural Fire Service - had been charged with seven counts of deliberately setting fires over a six-week period.

He was arrested on Tuesday night after allegedly lighting a blaze in the Bega Valley area, in the state's southeast, that afternoon.

"As part of his duties as a [Rural Fire Service] volunteer he later attended that fire with other members.

"That fire was extinguished," Det Insp Nelson said.

The man has been released on bail.

"We have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour," Det Insp Nelson said. "We all know the devastation these fires are causing."

The Rural Fire Service said it had "immediately stood down a volunteer member who has been charged over an alleged arson incident on the south coast."

"Over the past few weeks, we've seen firefighters going above and beyond in difficult and dangerous conditions," said the service's commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons.

"Our members will be rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many.


"This type of alleged behaviour is the ultimate betrayal of our own members, and of the broader community.

"The community has the right to be disappointed but we should not let it detract from the incredible work that firefighters have done in protecting and saving so many homes during unprecedented conditions."

The fires have also devastated koala populations in affected areas.

This week vets were forced to put down a koala named Lewis, which had become a symbol of the destruction after a video of him being rescued went viral online.

Irish Independent

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