VICTORIA Police and the CFA are supporting a new Crime Stoppers Victoria campaign that urges people to remember that a carelessly lit fire could cause just as much damage and be treated just as harshly as arson.
Representatives from the two organisations joined City of Greater Geelong mayor Bruce Harwood at Eastern Beach Reserve on Monday for the launch of Crime Stoppers Victoria’s Reckless Fires Cost Lives campaign.
Crime Stoppers Victoria’s Caroline Reid said unintentional actions could result in serious consequences.
“Both recklessly and deliberately lit fires are considered arson by law.
“Whether it’s a barbecue on a Total Fire Ban day, or whether you’re grinding or welding and there’s a spark – reckless bushfire arson can still result in the same tragic consequences as deliberate arson.”
Cr Harwood said not only had there been an increase in illegally lit coal barbecues at Eastern Beach Reserve, but they were also not being extinguished properly.
“Unfortunately, people lighting these fires and then tipping hot coals on the ground are not considering the risk they’re posing to the community and to the council staff who have to clean it up.”
Acting Superintendent Trevor Cornwill from Victoria Police said people should report what they know.
“Recklessly lit fires affect the entire community, and offenders face up to 15 years’ in prison and $36,000 in fines,” he said.
“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.
“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 call triple zero (000) in an emergency or make a report to Crime Stoppers Victoria confidentially.”
Assistant Chief Officer Rohan Luke from the CFA said there were already fires burning in Victoria that would not be extinguished for weeks to come.
“What we want to try to avoid is other fires in the landscape that take away our resources and that we have to focus on.”