Australia — Detectives from a specialist police team established four yearsago to hunt down bushfire arsonists have charged a Bathurst man over a blazethat destroyed more than $3 million worth of commercial pine forest.
The 20-year-old man was arrested and charged yesterday by officers fromStrike Force Toronto.
Officers from the unit are also investigating whether a fire burning inKu-ring-gai National Park was deliberately lit on Sunday.
The blaze, which has so far destroyed 1000 hectares of bushland, caused atraffic nightmare on Monday when the F3, the Pacific Highway and train serviceswere cut as it threatened homes on Sydney’s northern outskirts.
Police said a month-long investigation by Strike Force Toronto into a blazethat erupted in the Mount David State Forest, 55 kilometres south of Bathurst,had led to the charging of a 20-year-old man when he attended Bathurst policestation yesterday.
Police said the fire erupted among European pines on the afternoon ofDecember 19. Rural Fire Service volunteers and forestry workers battled for fourdays to bring the blaze under control.
When it was finally extinguished on Christmas Eve it had destroyed more than600 hectares of commercial pine forest worth about $3.4 million. Police said afurther 50 hectares of farmland had been destroyed.
A police spokesman said evidence found at the scene indicated the fire wasdeliberately lit, but would not elaborate.
Police said that after extensive inquiries officers charged the arrested manwith offences including intentionally setting a fire and malicious damage.
He was granted conditional bail to appear before Bathurst Local Court onFebruary 26.