The extent of WAs firebug scourge has been revealed with new figures showing there have been more than 1500 deliberately lit or suspicious bushfires in the State since October.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority figures provided to The West Australian show firefighters responded to 3783 bush and scrub fires between October 1 and March 4 and classified 1501 of those fires as either deliberately lit or suspicious.
The figures appalled Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson and shadow emergency services minister Margaret Quirk, who yesterday agreed it was time to toughen the States Bushfire Act.
Under the Act, a deliberately lit fire must have been likely to damage property or cause injury for a person to be charged.
But Mr Johnson and Ms Quirk said the law should also apply to deliberately lit fires which damaged significant areas of bush.
One month after Police Commissioner Karl OCallaghan voiced similar concerns about the shortcomings of the Act, Mr Johnson said yesterday he supported a tougher approach to prosecuting firebugs.
I believe if someone deliberately lights a fire knowing that its going to cause some damage whether thats to bushland or property or anything then that is a criminal act, he said.
Fifteen hundred deliberately lit fires amounts to an enormous amount of damage and valuable firefighting resources being tied up.
These people should not receive any leniency.
Ms Quirk said a move to broaden the scope of the Bushfire Act would almost certainly get the support of Labor.
FESA fire investigator Phill Cribb said its legal team was examining ways to amend the Act so that it would apply to most deliberately lit bushfires.
The environmental damage caused by these fires is overlooked under the Bushfire Act and we believe that the people that light these fires should generally be held accountable for all the damage they cause, he said.
Mr Cribb said he was disgusted by firebugs who had continued to light fires in WA in recent weeks, despite the carnage created by the recent bushfires in Victoria, which killed more than 200 people.
A bushfire which FESA believed may have been deliberately lit had threatened homes in Bertram on Saturday and burned about 25ha.