Police are turning to the community for assistance as investigations begin into several bushfires suspected of being deliberately lit during yesterday’s state-wide total fire ban.
State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON), Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys APM, praised the community for working together and supporting each other so positively.
“It has been heartening to see the community working together as we experienced catastrophic fire conditions over the past few days,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
“Now we need help from the community again – this time 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.
As investigations continue, police are urging anyone who may have seen anything suspicious or has information about the following fires from yesterday to contact the relevant police station or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000;
- 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.
Inquiries are being conducted by investigators from individual PACs and PDs, assisted by specialist officers attached to Strike Force Tronto and the Rural Fire Service.
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.
Deputy Commissioner Worboys said officers have also charged two men after they were found in possession of emergency service paraphernalia suspected of being stolen or illegally obtained.
A man is due to appear in Lismore Local Court today (Wednesday 13 November 2019), charged 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.
Detectives from the Richmond Rural Crime Prevention Team (RCPT) and Richmond Police District executed the warrant at the property on Cox Road, Koonorigan, 17km north of Lismore, about 10.15am (Tuesday 12 November 2019).
Police will allege when the property was searched items of RFS insignia – including uniform patches and documentation – was found, along with emergency service-branded equipment and helmets.
A 36-year-old man was arrested for breach of bail and was taken to Lismore Police Station. He was refused police bail; however, following execution of the search warrant the man has now been charged with dishonestly obtain benefit by deception, having goods in custody suspected of being stolen, and vehicle registration offences. The man is due to appear in Lismore Local Court today (Wednesday 13 November 2019).
In a separate incident, a 19-year-old man has been 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 (Tuesday 12 November 2019).
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.
The man was arrested on Farnell Avenue, Loftus, and taken to Sutherland Police Station where he was charged with impersonate emergency services officer, and having goods in custody suspected of being stolen.
He was released on strict conditional bail to appear in Sutherland Local Court on Wednesday 4 December 2019.
Additionally, a further five people were also found to have breached the total fire ban in the past 24 hours:
A 24-year-old Glenfield man is due to appear in Campbelltown Local Court after being arrested for failing to comply with a total fire ban order. Police will allege the man was arrested when he was seen lighting candles at a campsite at Campbelltown. The man has also been charged with resist arrest.
An 18-year-old man has been issued with a Court Attendance Notice for fail to comply with total fire ban order, after he allegedly lit a BBQ in his backyard at Fingal Bay. He will appear in Raymond Terrace Local Court 20 January 2020.
A 28-year-old man has been issued with an infringement notice for failing to comply with total fire ban when police were called to Hastings Parade, North Bondi, and found him allegedly using a BBQ with an open flame. The infringement incurs a fine of $2200.
A 26-year-old man was also issued with an infringement notice after allegedly lit a fire in a makeshift incinerator in the backyard of a home on Bay Street, Rockdale, to dispose of rubbish.
Finally, a 23-year-old man was issued with a Court Attendance Notice for fail to comply with total fire ban order, and leave fire lit or used in open air before extinguishing, after allegedly lighting a small grass fire to dispose of waste in the backyard of a home on Lancaster Road, Blacktown.
Deputy Commissioner Worboys said that it was 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.
“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.
Anyone with information about these incidents are urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.