Police are urging Victorians to remain vigilant about fire danger this summer, despite a wetter than average outlook for the upcoming season.
Victoria Police has launched Operation Safeguard – an annual police operation which aims to deter or reduce the impact of intentional and recklessly lit fires across Victoria.
Police will use intelligence to monitor the fire risk and deploy additional resources to areas deemed high risk, particularly during fire danger periods.
When responding to an emergency like a bushfire, Victoria Police supports the lead fire agencies by co-ordinating evacuations, traffic management, and investigating and prosecuting those responsible for irresponsible or intentionally lit fires.
With a wetter than average summer predicted, police are warning the community not to be complacent when it comes to their actions causing fires – even if unintentional.
Last year, there were 21 offences detected for recklessly causing a bushfire and 12 offences for intentionally causing a bushfire (between July 2020 – June 2021).
The most common causes of recklessly lit fires include burning off, campfires, car exhausts and machinery, use of tools such as angle grinders and welding equipment, bonfires and flares and farming machinery such as harvesters.
Whilst recklessly lit fires are considered by many to be accidental, the outcome is often the same as that caused by arson with potential for injury, loss of life or property.
Anyone found guilty of recklessly or intentionally causing a bushfire can face significant fines and penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
Police are reminding the community of their role in preventing bushfires and encourage people to speak up and report any reckless or suspicious behaviour.
Anyone who witnesses suspicious behaviour as it is occurring should phone Triple Zero (000) and anyone with any information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report to www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
Victorians should also stay informed using the Vic Emergency app and regularly check the Fire Danger rating to monitor the fire risk in their local area.
Operation Safeguard will run until March 2022.
Quotes attributable to Assistant Commissioner State Emergencies and Support Command, Michael Grainger:
“Now is not the time to be complacent – summer in Victoria means the risk of fire is imminent. In hot, dry and windy conditions, fires can start quickly, are fast-moving and can have devastating impacts.
“While we do have people deliberately lighting fires in the community, what is of concern is the number of recklessly lit fires in recent years.
“We will be targeting those people who engage in careless behaviour, such as burning off without a permit, not putting out a campfire properly or using tools or machinery during fire restrictions.
“Preventing bushfires is everyone’s responsibility – we’re asking the community to be mindful of their activities during the summer period and act responsibly – it could be your actions the result in a devastating bushfire, causing loss of life and property.
“Victoria Police takes any bushfire that is deliberately or recklessly lit seriously. Police will investigate and take action to catch those responsible when a fire is deemed suspicious, whether it was deliberate or a reckless action.”