Nearly 200 people in Australia have been arrested for DELIBERATELY setting fire to bushfires, according to state authorities.
Local media reports have revealed that a total of 183 people have been arrested by police across the states of Queensland, New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania since November due to deliberately setting fire to bushfires.
In NSW, 24 people have been apprehended and charged with deliberately lighting bushfires. A further 53 people now are facing legal action for allegedly failing to comply with the fire bans which have been set. Whilst another 47 people have improperly discarded a lit cigarette whilst outdoors, according to the Nine network.
In Queensland, police investigations have concluded that 103 fires have been deliberately lit, with 97 people – 67 of which are juveniles – have been identified as the culprits.
In recent months, Australia has been ravaged by devastating bushfires which have killed at least 25 people and destroyed hundreds of millions of animals and livestock. Over 2,000 homes have been destroyed by the blazes, which has so far perished 13 million acres of land, which is the equivalent of the US state of Maryland, twice.
Under the NSW Crimes Act, the Rural Fire Act, and Rural Fires Regulation, have penalties put in place for lighting up bushfires. This could mean 25 years in prison for damaging property with the intention of endangering life. It also means 21 years in prison for starting a bushfire and recklessly letting it spread.
Anyone who is caught lighting a fire when there is currently a complete fire ban could risk up to 12 months imprisonment or an AUD$5,500 fine. Anyone who is seen lighting or using a tobacco product within 15 metres of any stacks of grain, hay corn, straw, or any standing crop, dry grass, or stubble field could also receive a fine.
Co-Director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, Dr Paul Read, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in September 2019 said that approximately 85 per cent of bushfires are caused by humans deliberately or accidentally starting them.
Dr Read said: “About 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson.
“The remainder are usually due to reckless fire lighting or even just children playing with fire.”
Bushfire Expert Janet Stanley spoke to Melbourne University and stated that the majority of fires are being lit by young people between the ages of 12 to 24. However, it has been reported that children as young as 10 have also been caught setting fires.
In December 2019, she told Newscorp: “Unfortunately, 10 per cent of people who we think light fires are 10 years old or younger.”
Little research has been conducted about arsonists on a worldwide scale, which means there is little knowledge on the reasons and circumstances as to why these people start fires, although Stanley insisted she doesn’t believe these people are necessarily evil.
Stanley’s own home was destroyed in 1983, which made her want to understand as much as possible about bushfire arson.
“Older men are also prone to lighting fires,” she added. “They often have a history of child abuse and neglect. They probably dropped out of school at a very early age, living on the edge of society, likely to be unemployed, not engaged in the community.“In most cases, they don’t intend to cause this chaos, they might just like to make a fuss.”Stanley believes that there needs to be “much clearer” data to understand why people set fires and noted that “not all fires are officially recorded, let alone being investigated.”
“We need to understand how to better protect and understand these people [arsonists]. Sometimes they are quite happy to be caught—they feel safer in jail,” she said.
The current bushfire crisis started in Australia last September, which coincided with a temperature imbalance which was recorded at the Indian Ocean. This temperature imbalance meant there were favourable fire conditions across Australia.