With the bush fire danger period in place across 74 local government areas, NSW Police Force has warned residents about the dangers of deliberately lit and controlled fires.
As warmer weather approaches, the NSW Police Force financial crime squad's arson unit, under Strike Force Tronto, has launched a joint operation with Coffs/Clarence Police District.
Strike Force Yeelanna will educate the community on issues surrounding deliberately lit fires, particularly by landowners, farmers and graziers on the approach to fire season.
Coffs/Clarence Police District Commander Detective Superintendent Steven Clarke said the community needs to be educated before the hot and dry summer months arrive.
"Bush fires can have catastrophic effects - the ongoing drought has left many rural properties bone dry, with not only livestock at risk, but human life as well," Commander Clarke said.
"Bush fires can destroy livelihoods. landowners, farmers, stock agents, anyone who lives and works on the land need to be aware of the dangers of escaped burns, or lighting fires without a permit.
"Education is key - landowners need to be given the chance to ask questions and be brought up to speed with the consequences of deliberately-lit fires.
"That being said, the role of the community cannot be overstated. Information provided to police from members of the public can help us identify and suppress fire-bugs before they start lighting.
"If you have suspicions at all and wish to report a crime, don't take the risk - contact police or Crime Stoppers."
NSW Police works closely with the RFS and Fire and Rescue NSW to investigate deliberately lit blazes.
Strike Force Tronto, comprised of detectives from the financial crime squad's arson unit, is the lead investigative body on suspicious or deliberately lit bush fires which result in death, serious injury or significant property loss.
Penalties relating to bush fires under the NSW Crimes Act, the Rural Fires Act, and Rural Fires Regulation include:
- Damaging property with the intention of endangering life- up to 25 years' imprisonment
- Manslaughter- up to 25 years imprisonment
- Starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread- up to 21 years' imprisonment
- Lighting a fire when a total fire ban is in place- up to 12 months' imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine
- Not putting out a fire that you have lit- up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine
- Failing to comply with a bush fire hazard reduction notice- up to 12 months' imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine
- Light or use a tobacco product within 15 metres of any stack of grain, hay corn, straw or any standing crop, dry grass or stubble field- up to a $5500 fine