POLICE are desperately appealing for help to track down a number of heartless firebugs suspected of deliberately lighting several blazes during yesterday’s state-wide fire ban in NSW.
Around 7 fires that erupted yesterday are understood to be suspicious, with a major investigation by specialist officers attached to Strike Force Tronto and the Rural Fire Service now underway.
State Emergency Operations Controller Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys is encouraging anyone who saw anything suspicious in the following areas yesterday to come forward.
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“We need help from the community to assist our detectives who are beginning investigations into the cause of fires suspected of being deliberately lit across several police area commands and police districts,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
Full list of fires being investigated:
- About 10.30am, New England Highway near Moonbi – Oxley Police District
- Just before 2.30pm, Hooka Creek Road, Berkeley – Lake Illawarra Police District
- About 3.15pm, three fires in bushland north west of Doonan Place, Balgownie – Wollongong Police District.
- Shortly after 3pm in the vicinity of Bradley’s Reserve, Kissing Point Road; and 4pm, near Canoon Road, South Turramurra – Kuring-Gai Police Area Command
- Just after 4.30pm, in the vicinity of Honeymoon Lookout, Cliff Drive, Katoomba – Blue Mountains Police District
- From 4.30pm, four fires throughout Morisset – Lake Macquarie Police District
- From 7pm, Royal National Park near Loftus – Sutherland Shire Police Area Command.
The call out for help comes after officers charged two men after they were found in possession of emergency service paraphernalia suspected of being stolen.
One of the men is due to appear in Lismore Local Court today after equipment branded with RFS and another emergency agency was found when a search warrant was executed at his home on the Far North Coast yesterday.
The 36-year-old has been charged with dishonestly obtain benefit by deception, having goods in custody suspected of being stolen, and vehicle registration offences.
A 19-year-old man was also charged with impersonating an emergency services officer and having goods in custody suspected of being stolen, after he was arrested dressed in a Fire and Rescue NSW uniform at Loftus about 9.30pm yesterday.
“Officers from Sutherland Police Area Command were told that a man dressed as a firefighter had been seen riding a motor scooter in the Royal National Park,” NSW Police said in a statement.
A further five people have also been charged after they were found to have breached the total fire ban in the past 24 hours.
Those charged include a 24-year-old man who was allegedly seen lighting candles at a campsite at Campbelltown, an 18-year-old man who allegedly lit a BBQ in his backyard at Fingal Bay, and a 28-year-old man who was allegedly seen using a BBQ with an open flame at North Bondi.
A 26-year-old man was also charged after allegedly lighting a fire in a makeshift incinerator in the backyard of a home in Rockdale to dispose of rubbish, while a 23-year-old man allegedly lit a small grass fire to dispose of waste in the backyard of a home in Blacktown.
Deputy Commissioner Worboys says it’s disappointing that “the actions of a few had the potential to impact negatively on the rest of the community.”
“The vast majority of people really banded together and supported each other during a time of catastrophic danger. It’s unacceptable that the actions of these few individuals endangered the lives and property of others, either intentionally or through ignorance,” he said.
“Moving forward into the bushfire season, and as police investigate these offences, we would urge the community to keep up the good work and continue to provide assistance where possible”, Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
The State Crime Command’s Arson Unit established Strike Force Tronto 2001 to investigate suspicious or deliberately-lit bushfires which lead to death, serious injury or significant property loss.