TWO men face the possibility of spending the next 14 years in jail after they were allegedly caught deliberately lighting bushfires near already fire-ravaged Rockhampton, on Queensland’s Central Coast.
The region has been besieged by fire since Wednesday when a number of blazes broke out in catastrophic fire weather. It’s the first time the catastrophic level has been reached in Queensland.
Astonishingly, despite the extremely dangerous conditions and the threat to life and property, two men have allegedly been caught lighting two further fires in the area.
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The most recent incident allegedly occurred this morning, when a 26-year-old man allegedly set fire to an area of dry grass on the side of the Burnett highway in Port Curtis.
A member of the public saw the man and immediately phoned triple zero.
Rural firefighters, police and local residents worked together to extinguish the fire before it spread.
The man was arrested within an hour of the incident and is assisting police with their investigations.
Today’s incident follows the arrest of a 26-year-old local man who allegedly deliberately started a fire in a paddock on Farm Street, near Haynes Street on Wednesday, when the fire weather was at its worst.
Firefighters were already in the area, fighting several other fires, when they were called to the scene.
They managed to quickly bring the blaze under control before it could cause any damage. Police said a “small amount of grassland was burnt”.
The 26-year-old man was charged with one count of endangering property by fire and will front Rockhampton Magistrates Court on December 17.
If convicted, the man faces the real possibility of spending the 14-years behind bars.
Under the Criminal Code, a person convicted of arson faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
A 14-year prison sentence is possible for anyone found guilty of unlawfully setting fire to a crop or endangering property by setting fire.
Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee, State Disaster Coordinator said that the Queensland Police Service treat all arson offences very seriously.
“Police will continue to patrol and actively target people who deliberately light fires. If you offend, you are going to get caught,” Deputy Commissioner Gee said.
“Arson can have devastating consequences including the potential for loss of life, the destruction of property, livestock and livelihoods.”
Police are out in force, patrolling towns affected by bushfires and are urging members of the community to report any suspicious behaviour.
You can also report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24 hours per day. Crime Stoppers is a registered charity and community volunteer organisation.