Emergency Services unite for bushfire arson warning

Canfan 20 December 2014

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Joy Burch is urging residents to be vigilant in reporting suspicious activity following several grass fires across the ACT in the past few weeks.

ACT Fire & Rescue, the ACT Rural Fire Service, along with ACT Policing, see an increase in deliberately lit grass fires and bushfires from December to March, with most occurring along roadside green areas, in local parks and in reserves.

“The potential risk for grass fires is high this bushfire season, and as such we are warning the Canberra community to be mindful of the risks of deliberately lit fires, particularly grass fires, as they may quickly spread,” Ms Burch said.

“Members of the community may be the first to notice suspicious behaviour or activity in their neighbourhood, so police need the help of these residents to monitor open areas such as parks or grasslands across the ACT.

“It doesn’t have to be a day of extreme heat or strong winds for a fire to cause significant damage to lives and property.”

ACT Fire & Rescue (ACTF&R) and the ACT Rural Fire Service (ACTRFS) have attended 189 grass fires and bushfires since January 1, 2014 and of those, 101 were believed to be suspicious or deliberately lit.

Arson contributes to a high percentage of the cause of fires across the ACT, with ACT Fire Service records suggesting that since 2006, 55 per cent of bushfires are deemed to be suspicious.

Chief Police Officer for the ACT, Rudi Lammers, said the community had an important part to play in bushfire arson prevention and investigations.

“Arsonists often stay in the area to watch a fire they have lit, so if members of the community see bystanders appearing to show a real interest in a recently lit fire, please report this information to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” Mr Lammers said.

“We take the deliberate lighting of bushfires very seriously and there are a number of offences those responsible can be charged with depending on the type of fire lit, and the damage caused by the fire.”

ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Dominic Lane said the close working relationship between ACT Policing, ACT Rural Fire Service and the ACT Fire & Rescue investigators assists in determining ‘hot spots’ based on recent arson-related incidents and during arson investigations.

ACT Policing is patrolling specific areas to deter and detect any suspicious or anti-social behaviour. Anyone who sees any suspicious behaviour or activity in grassland areas is urged to contact ACT Policing immediately on 131 444.

(Joy Burch Media Release)

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