AS parts of the region continue to feel the effects of a bushfire which has raged for a week, reports of investigations into possibly deliberately lit fires continue to filter in through the media.
According to Crime Stoppers chief executive Samantha Hunter, up to 50 per cent of bushfires are deliberately or recklessly lit.
“These fires are avoidable, and there can be penalties for recklessly or deliberately lighting a fire,” Ms Hunter said at the Gippsland leg of Crime Stoppers’ Anti-Bushfire Arson Roadshow in Traralgon yesterday.
She said these blazes, which could easily burn out of control, could have also been started by a camper who has forgotten to put out a fire or a farmer using machinery during a fire danger period, or a day of a total fire ban.
“The community of Gippsland is already on high fire alert and should continue to be vigilant if they see anything suspicious in their area,” she said.
Ms Hunter said because information could be reported confidentially through Crime Stoppers, people who were concerned about naming a member of their community could do so without fear.
“We’ve seen a big increase in people calling in to report or provide information on deliberately lit fires,” she said.
“Every little bit of information is vital to the jigsaw of an investigation.”
Gippsland Arson Prevention Program spokesperson and Hancock Victoria Plantation fire protection manager Greg Flynn said the common message was the community had a role to play to report suspicious incidents.
“Arson is a local problem; if locals know about something, they should report it through Crime Stoppers,” Mr Flynn said.
Meanwhile, State Member for Morwell Russell Northe reiterated the message of the community’s role in arson prevention.
“In the last few years we’re felt the devastation of bushfires, so it’s important to heed the message and be vigilant over summer,” Mr Northe said.
For a list of what can and cannot be done during fire danger periods or a total fire ban, visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can
Anyone with information on a fire which may have been deliberately lit should phone Crime Stoppers on
1800 333 000.