Crime Stoppers Victoria is urging the community to help keep Victoria safe by looking out for reckless and dangerous fire behaviour in our towns, parks and forests this summer.
The community crime prevention organisation is once again conducting its’ ‘Reckless Fires Cost Lives’ campaign across the 2018-19 fire season, reminding Victorians of the consequences of recklessly caused bush and grass fires.
Whether recklessly or deliberately lit, bush and grass fires have disastrous consequences. It is a criminal offence under Victorian law to cause a bushfire recklessly, or to be reckless as to the spread of a fire to vegetation or property belonging to another.
Reckless behaviour can include disobeying restrictions relating to total fire ban or fire danger periods, leaving campfires unattended, burning off without a permit, or using hot tools or machinery that emits flames or sparks on total fire ban days.
Crime Stoppers Victoria CEO Erika Owens urged the community to be vigilant as we head into the hotter months.
“Reckless fires cost lives. We need your help to keep the community safe from bushfires this summer by being aware of your own fire behaviour and that of others,” Ms Owens said.
“It’s up to everyone to know the fire rules for their local area, or the areas they’re travelling to and to be mindful of their own actions and the behaviour of the people around them.”
“If you know of anyone engaging in reckless fire behaviour, or have any information about reckless or deliberately lit fires, we urge you to make a report to Crime Stoppers Victoria confidentially.”
“We know that information from the community helps to solve crime, we see it every day at Crime Stoppers, so please get behind this campaign and report what you know,” she said.
CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said the organisation took a zero tolerance approach to any unauthorised fires or fires resulting from negligent behaviour subject to police investigation.
“A fire started at any time of the year which damages someone else’s property is a crime,” he said.
“For information about burn-off restrictions specific to your area consult your local council. Most forecasts indicate an above-average fire season, heightening even further the need for extreme caution.”
“Even if you have a permit to use fire over the Fire Danger Period, make sure you read the conditions carefully. Failing to follow just one of those conditions may leave you open to prosecution.”
According to Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency, there were over 29* offences recorded for ‘causing a bushfire’ during 2018.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Grainger reminded the Victorian public that reckless fires are not only dangerous, offenders will also receive serious penalties.
“A recklessly lit fire such as failing to properly extinguish a campfire is a crime that carries severe penalties”
“Penalties for causing a bushfire include up to 15 years imprisonment or fines of over $36,000.”
“The maximum penalty for arson resulting in death is 25 years imprisonment,” he said.
People who know of reckless or deliberate behaviour that could lead to a bushfire are urged to report to Crime Stoppers Victoria, on 1800 333 000 or at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au. You don’t have to give your name, and all reports are completely confidential.
In an emergency, or if you see smoke or flames, contact 000.
*Full statistics for 2018 will be released in March 2019, so that figure is expected to rise.
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