Two of the boys lit a grass fire at a reserve in Koonawarra in Wollongong at 10.20am on Sunday.
The children will go to a youth conference under the Young Offenders Act for the offense of causing a bushfire. While fires continue to rage across NSW, the news of children being some of those that have started them has been causing massive online debate. Many blaming the parents. Police issued a caution to another 12-year-old boy after another fire was allegedly lit at 12.15 pm behind a sports club on McGregor Avenue in the Wollongong suburb of Warilla. Thankfully the fires were extinguished by emergency services soon after they were lit. Lake Illawarra Police District Inspector Brian Pedersen said the number of deliberately lit fires across the district is a concern. ‘It’s quite distressing to see young people in particular continuing to ignore the message about how dangerous fires can be,’ he said. ‘We are urging the whole community to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.’
It comes after an emergency warning was issued as the ferocious bushfires burning across the New South Wales South Coast doubled in sized.
An RFS volunteer has been charged after he allegedly lit seven fires on the NSW South Coast, including one on Tuesday, which he returned to fight as part of his duties as a volunteer firefighter.
Blake William Banner, 19, was arrested on Tuesday evening in connection with seven fires in the Bega Valley area between October 17 and November 26. All are believed to have been deliberately lit. “We have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour,” South Coast Police District crime manager, Detective Inspector Scott Nelson, said.
“Deliberately lighting a bushfire is a very serious offence. It’s a very serious risk to the community.” Inspector Nelson said punishments attached to such a crime would see a perpetrator face “serious penalties” and possibly a “substantial time in jail”. He appeared before Bega Local Court, where he was granted bail after posting a sum of $5000. Bail conditions imposed by magistrate Doug Dick require him to report to Bega police station once a day and to live at his home address in Tarraganda, in which he is to remain between 8pm and 8am. If he leaves the premises outside this time, he must do so only in the company of a parent.
His bail conditions also require him to attend psychological treatment and accept any treatment reasonably recommended, including attending appointments. He is not to possess any firefighting equipment or implements of any kind.
A total of 116 bush and grass fires are burning across NSW with 56 uncontained and more than 2000 firefighters in the field being supported by aircraft. It’s heartbreaking to think any of them have been deliberately lit, especially by children. It feels like the ultimate betrayal to start fires during a catastrophic period. Are the parents to blame for their children’s behaviour? Does there need to be harsher penalties put in place?
Over 2 million hectares have been lost, countless wildlife, homes and lives. A koala habitat wiped out. We can only hope they face the full extent of the law and that Australia gets some relief soon.