Fire Bug Caught

A 17-year-old Riverina youth has been arrested and has confessed to his involvement in the deliberate lighting of fires that resulted in malicious damage to Bago State Forest on 17 November.

Tumbarumba Police Sergeant Terry MacGregor said the youth would be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act 1997.

On 17 November, Forestry Corporation fire crews were called to fight three small fires burning under pines in Bago State Forest.

Forestry Corporation regional manager Bob Germantse said Forestry Corporation initially tackled the fires with rake hoes until other fire crews arrived with slip on units and a fire tanker.

“Little damage was done to the pines and the fires were contained to a relatively small area because of the prompt action taken by Forestry Corporation fire crews.

“It is imperative that we protect the region’s pine plantation and native forests from fire. They are the lifeblood of local communities.

“The timber industry across the south west slopes generates $1.166 billion annually for the regional economy and provides jobs for more than 3500 people.

“This arrest sends a firm message out to would-be fire bugs that if you light fires in the forests this summer you have a good chance of being caught,” he said.

Sergeant MacGregor said that the maximum penalty for an adult caught deliberately lighting a fire that has resulted in malicious damage is 13 years’ jail.

“During my six years at Tumbarumba fire bugs have not been a big problem and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

“The arrest embodies the work of ‘Operation Forest’ that was set up 1999 in Tumbarumba to combat the incidence of rural crime. The concept has been so successful that it has been adapted by other regions.

“In Tumbarumba, Operation Forest involves the local police, Forestry Corporation, Tumbarumba Shire Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the community working together.
“The police regularly patrol the forests as well as relying heavily on information from the public in relation to crimes being committed in the forests.”

Sergeant MacGregor said anyone who sees any suspicious or illegal activity taking place in the forests should immediately report the incident to the police.

Media Contact: Sarah Chester on (02) 6036 2110 OR 0417 207 669.