Drive to find bush fire arsonists

Drive to find bushfire arsonists

5 February 2007

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New Zealand — Three days of bush fires around Perth have prompted the WestAustralian government to offer a $200,000 reward for information leading to theconviction of an arsonist.

Detectives have ruled out arson as the cause of the main fire at Dwellingup,south of Perth, but are still investigating whether several smaller blazes inthe area were deliberately lit.

A fire at Yanchep, just north of Perth, is also suspected to have beendeliberately lit.

Premier Alan Carpenter, who has been visiting Dwellingup, said any arsonistwould be severely punished.

“It is almost inconceivable that anybody could be so stupid and socriminally, wilfully damaging to the community as to go about setting a firedeliberately in these circumstances,” Carpenter said.

An indefinite bush fire emergency period has been declared for WA’s south,meaning no fires can be lit without permission from Emergency Services MinisterJohn Kobelke.

The Dwellingup blaze has burnt more than 11,000 hectares of forest andfarmland and destroyed 14 houses, the Department of Environment and Conservationsays.

Two flare-ups have now been contained, but firefighters are still working onseveral spot fires.

DEC spokesman Murray Mitchell said firefighters were trying to consolidatethe fire ahead of forecast 40 degree temperatures and northerly winds onWednesday.

“We are consolidating the fire, tracking it, making sure there are nounburnt pockets and reducing the possibility of hopovers.”

A bush fire at Toodyay, 85km north-east of Perth, in which a 26-year-oldschoolteacher was killed on Saturday might have been sparked by powerlinesclashing in high winds, Western Power said.

Michelle Mack died after her car rolled as she attempted to escape the blazeand she was thrown out of it.

Police are still unsure if she was killed in the crash or burnt to death.

A preliminary investigation had found that power lines might have started theblaze, Western Power said.

Meanwhile, three fires have led to the evacuation of the John ForrestNational Park on Perth’s eastern fringes.

Another fire is burning at Mundaring Weir, near Perth, forcing some roadclosures and producing heavy smoke.

Neither fire was threatening properties late this afternoon, the Fire andEmergency Services Association said.

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