Arsonists

Arsonists, by Jack the Insider.

In NSW, police have taken action against 180 people, including 24 charged over deliberately lit bushfires. There are other direct human causes that may have led to ignition. 53 people allegedly failed to comply with a total fire ban and 47 allegedly discarded a lit cigarette or match.

We might assume that those 24 charged are deranged firebugs lighting bushfires to get their kicks. But when it comes to aberrant human behaviour, there is almost always complexity.

For example, one of the 24 was seen by police allegedly driving a stolen car. Police gave up on the pursuit and the car was allegedly torched, which caused a large grassfire.

In another case, one man allegedly performed his own amateur backburn to protect his marijuana crop. The back burn got out of control and caused an extensive bushfire.

Two days ago, a man was served with a court notice after he was allegedly using an angle grinder in the open on a total fire ban day. The sparks caused ignition and burnt 25 hectares before the fireys put it out. He has been summoned to court charged with failure to comply with a total fire ban order.

In the way these instances are regarded, the first two cases are determined to be the deliberate lighting of fires (the charges reflect that although the word arson does not appear on the charge sheets) with the third case regarded as unintentional.

The wider problem is that despite real suspicions that many fires have been deliberately lit, it is a long stretch to prosecution. Like most serious crime, investigations are fraught and evidence difficult to obtain.

We won’t know more precise details about causation until long after these fires are well and truly out. There are human causes both deliberate and unintentional and there are natural causes such as dry lightning. Fire experts consider that 40 per cent of all fires are deliberately lit.

There is a developing story about fire terrorism that seems to be jumping out of the shadows where we have all been carefully not mentioning it. Cat’s out the bag it would appear, more soon.