ACT Policing, ACT Fire & Rescue and ACT Rural Fire Service have joined forces to warn the community about the danger of deliberately lighting fires this summer, following a suspicious grass fire in Gungahlin this week.
On Monday (January 21), ACT Fire & Rescue extinguished a fire near the Uniting Church on The Valley Avenue in Gungahlin. The fire was stopped about 10 metres from a paddock, where the grass was approximately a metre high and considered a significant fuel source if the fire had spread to that area.
Advice received from firefighters was that if they had responded five minutes later, the fire could have been difficult to control.
ACT Fire & Rescue Fire Investigation Superintendent Steve Edwards said this is potentially the worst year for grass fires in and around Canberra that we have experienced for a number of years. The community expects the fire services to respond swiftly to grass fires, we expect the community to be especially careful with discarded smoking material and to be vigilant and ring 000 if they see someone lighting a fire and/or have smoke in their area.
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ACT Rural Fire Service Chief Officer Andrew Stark confirmed that a pro-active bushfire investigation capability within the ACTRFS is working well with our ACT Policing counterparts.
“Examination of bushfire scenes deemed suspicious is now taking place with our experts and AFP Crime Scene Officers attending these fires. This action combined with a number of interagency initiatives are in place to address the problem”, Mr Stark said.
“Deliberate lighting of bushfires is not tolerated and we take this very seriously”.
Acting Superintendent Chris Meagher of ACT Policing Intelligence said police were working closely with the ACT Rural Fire Service and the ACT Fire and Rescue Investigators to determine ‘hot spots’ based on recent fire and arson related incidents.
“Traditionally in the ACT, we see an increase in suspicious grassland and bushland fires from December through to March. As such and due to the potential risk for grass fires being high this season, we are patrolling all open vegetation areas in the ACT, to deter and detect any suspicious activity or anti-social behaviour,” Acting Superintendent Meagher said.
“Members of the community are often the first to notice suspicious behaviour or activity in their neighbourhood, so we need their help to monitor open areas such as parks or grasslands across the ACT.
“Anyone who sees any suspicious behaviour or activity in grassland areas is urged to contact ACT Policing Operations immediately on 131-444,” Acting Superintendent Meagher said.
Anyone who witnessed the grass fire on Monday in Gungahlin and is yet to speak to police are urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the website act.crimestoppers.com.au.