Australia — Police will target more than 100 known arsonists during the bushfire season with the help of a new mobile number plate recognition system.
In launching the official state-wide fire danger season at the Belair National Park today, Assistant Commissioner Bryan Fahy said the number of people monitored by the anti-arson police taskforce Operation Nomad had more than doubled from about 50 in the past year.
He said already this fire season 11 arsonists had been caught lighting fires.
“Last year 179 people were apprehended for lighting fires during the fire danger season and 92 expiation notices were issued relating to fires,” he said.
“This demonstrates that police are committed to achieving the SA Government’s tough stance towards arson.
“South Australia has some of the toughest penalties for bushfire arson with up to 20 years imprisonment for anyone convicted of this crime.”
The mobile surveillance cameras – mounted on police patrol cars – can identify the number plates of vehicles of interest – in the daytime or at night, and in all weather conditions.
Hardware retailers will also issue bushfire risk information to people who buy power tools.
The text message warning system to notify people living in danger areas of fire is expected to be in place by Christmas.
SA Country Fire Service Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said all South Australians must have a bushfire action plan in place now.
“Much of South Australia has had abundant crop and grass growth … there are significant fuel loads across much of the state,” he said.
“We urge all South Australians to take action now. Be prepared, remain vigilant and plan what to do in the event of a bushfire.
“The CFS is anticipating a busy season as we enter summer. Dry conditions and long periods of hot water are expected. We all must take action now.”
Police Minister Michael Wright said the State Government had invested an extra $5.2 million on community awareness and education.
“Last month we witnessed unseasonable heatwave conditions which resulted in South Australia being the first state to record a Catastrophic Fire Danger Rating,” he said.
“Now that we are experiencing a cooler spell, people should really be seizing the opportunity to devise and implement their bushfire survival plans if they haven’t already.
“Operation Nomad will also be launched today to promote our zero tolerance attitude towards arson offences in South Australia.”