AUSTRALIA – A man has been charged after he was allegedly caught deliberately lighting several fires on the far south coast of NSW, as firefighters brace for worsening weather conditions amid a concerning jump in the number of fires burning across the state.
Emergency services in the Bega Valley were called to several spot fires burning in bushland in the vicinity of Scrubby Creek in Narrabarba, south of Eden, about 12pm on Wednesday.
A 33-year-old Victorian man was allegedly seen lighting the fires and a nearby forestry worker detained him at the scene until police arrived and arrested him.
The man was taken to Eden Police Station and charged with intentionally causing a fire and being reckless as to its spread. He was refused bail and is due to appear at Batemans Bay Local Court on Thursday.
A 19-year-old fire fighter has been stood down by the RFS after he was charged with lighting fires.
Fires more than double ahead of worsening weather
There are now a total of six fires burning in the Bega Valley area, while the number of fires burning across the state has more than doubled since the beginning of the week, as firefighters and residents brace for more hot and windy weather forecast for the weekend.
NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Ben Shepherd said the South Coast had been fortunate in receiving some rain, and all the fires burning in the Bega Valley are under control.
But fires started by lightning strikes in other parts of the state weren’t necessarily accompanied by rain – and firefighters are now in a race against time to contain those burning near populated areas before hot and windy weather returns on the weekend.
Of the 157 bush and grass fires burning across NSW on Thursday morning, 67 were uncontained. On Monday, the total number of fires burning in NSW was 67 and less than half of those were uncontained.
Mr Shepherd said there are “a number of concerning factors” for the state’s firefighters with such a high number of fires now active in the landscape – including some burning “very close to significant populated areas” such as the Blue Mountains and Sydney’s north-west – while hot and windy weather is forecast to follow potential storm activity on Friday.
“We’ve got a significant day on the way for Sydney and surrounds on Saturday and at this stage the [weather] bureau is indicating that a fair part of the state next week will maintain temperatures maybe in the early 30s,” he said.
“They will be very dry days, and we’re likely to have sustained westerly winds that will push these fires along.
“We’re not in a very good position as far as fires in the landscape with that forecast in mind.”