Half of all bushfires lit by arsonists, study finds

Half of all bushfires lit by arsonists, study finds

6 October 2007

published by  www.theage.com.au

HALF the bushfires that will sweep Australia this summer are likely to be deliberately lit.

The world’s biggest study of bushfire arson, collated by the Australian Institute of Criminology, greatly upgrades previous estimates on bushfire arson, concluding that just under 50 per cent were classed as “incendiary or suspicious”, compared with just over 30 per cent in earlier estimates. The study compared data on the estimated 200,000 fires over the past five years.

According to the researchers, efforts to study and trap firebugs in Australia are frustrated by poor interstate co-operation, even though the crime is responsible for millions of dollars in property damage and threats to life.

In a nation so affected by bushfires each summer, few arsonists are jailed, there is little research on issues such as re-offending and no specific adult rehabilitation.

There are also no comprehensive attempts to actively thwart firebugs. The Australian Fire Authorities Council admits the national fire database is “unsophisticated”.

■ Victoria likely faces a repeat of last summer’s terrible fires, given existing dry conditions and expectations of dry, warm weather to come, the Department of Sustainability and Environment has warned.

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