Berkeley burns: 100 fires in 10 weeks

Berkeley burns: 100 fires in 10 weeks

14 October 2009

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Australia — Firefighters have been called to almost 100 grass fires in Berkeley in the last 10 weeks, most of them deliberately lit.

Captain Paul Dawson said in the past month alone there had been almost 40 grass fires in the suburb and firefighters were fed up.

“We used to mainly get grass fires in school holidays, but now it’s happening at any time,” he said.

Fire crews believe most, if not all, of the 96 grass fires in Berkeley since August 1 were deliberately lit.

These call-outs did not include all the other Berkeley jobs the Unanderra Fire Brigade were called to where cars, garbage bins or houses were alight.

“It’s a much bigger increase (in grass fire activity) than this time last year,” Capt Dawson said.

The fires have been mainly in Fred Finch Park, Hooka Point Park, Holborn Park and Warwick St.

“They are lighting fires as we put them out and leave,” Capt Dawson said.

One of the worst weekends began on Friday, September 25 – the station’s incident log showed two fires were lit in the suburb, one lasting six hours.

There were six fresh fires to fight on the Saturday, six more on the Sunday, and four were lit on the Monday.

“One fire at Warwick St was threatening houses,” Capt Dawson said.

“We’re getting called to the same places over and over and over, how much can they burn?

“It is taking valuable resources away from other areas.”

When conditions allow, Capt Dawson said fire crews were leaving grass fires to burn so there was less fuel for arsonists to burn next time.

“These kids are willing to put people’s lives and property at risk,” he said.

Capt Dawson suspected bored teenagers were largely responsible for the grass fires.

“There’s a danger to kids getting burnt themselves or their clothes catching fire,” he said.

Unfortunately, Capt Dawson said it was difficult to catch the culprits.

“Unless they’ve got matches and petrol on them, there’s not much we can do,” he said.

“It’s up to parents to see if their kids are coming home smelling of smoke.

“It’s also up to the community, they’re our eyes, they see things before we do.”

The Lake Illawarra Northern Community held a meeting last night about Berkeley and among the issues up for discussion were the ongoing grass fires.

Lake Illawarra Acting Inspector John Klepczarek said police were aware of the fires.

“It’s difficult for emergency services who attend those fires as usually the people who’ve started them are long gone so we have little to act on,” he said.

“They’re also started in isolated locations.”

Insp Klepczarek urged anyone who had information about any fires to contact police.

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