Residents can help beat arson

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Yanchep and Gingin residents can help Strike Force Vulcan prevent arson and catch those responsible. Illustration: Anita McInnes

THIS week when WA Police launched Strike Force Vulcan for the 2016-17 bushfire season they reminded residents that public information played a vital role in fighting arson.

The arson squad attended 164 suspicious bushfires during a four-month period in 2015-16.

During 2015-16 out of a total 631 bushfires 539 or 85 per cent were found to be suspicious or deliberately lit.

Police Minister Liza Harvey said in the 2015-16 bushfire season Strike Force Vulcan officers attended on average more than one fire a day across Perth.

“Western Australians have recently seen the devastation and tragedy caused by out-of-control fires and the last thing authorities need to be dealing with is deliberately lit blazes,” she said.

Mrs Harvey said Strike Force Vulcan would fight arsonists by using covert cameras to conduct surveillance on identified bushfire arson hot spots, targeted patrolling of identified hot spots, a community awareness campaign and targeting known arsonists using overt and covert means in collaboration with local policing teams.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said firefighters put their lives on the line to protect the community from deliberately lit fires.

He said parents with children fascinated by fire should consider the government’s extremely successful juvenile and family fire awareness program.

WA Police said Strike Force Vulcan, first introduced in 2010, was a dedicated team led by senior detectives from the arson squad who work in close collaboration with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and Department Parks and Wildlife to prevent and investigate bushfire arson.

A police spokeswoman said arson was a serious offence and in Western Australia the maximum penalty was life imprisonment.

“If you light a fire in bushland, you risk going to jail for life,’’ she said.

“Deliberate fires place an enormous financial burden on the community.

“They have the potential to kill and injure people and animals, and destroy homes and animal habitats.’’

Rewards of up to $50,000 are available for information that leads to the identification and conviction of an arsonist.

  • In a life threatening emergency, including where smoke can be seen in bushland areas, call 000.
  • To report suspicious activity call 131 444.
  • Anyone with information regarding bushfires and arsonists is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online at www.crimestopperswa.com.au

Callers may remain anonymous if they wish.