Time to dob in fire bugs

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The public is being urged to help keep Victoria’s bushland and farms safe this summer by keeping an eye out for reckless and dangerous fire behaviour

A grass fire in WA
Tobias Titz/ Getty Images - Fire on grassy field against cloudy sky during sunset, Newman, Western Australia, Australia

Crime Stoppers Victoria is once again conducting its Reckless Fires Cost Lives campaign across the state, reminding the public of the consequences of recklessly caused bush and grass fires.

"Whether recklessly or deliberately lit, bush and grass fires have disastrous consequences," Crime Stoppers says. "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.

"Reckless fires cost lives," Crime Stoppers Victoria CEO Erika Owens Owens says. "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," she adds.

"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."

Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington says the CFA takes 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," Warrington says.

"For information about burn-off restrictions specific to your area consult your local council," Warrington says. "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, as failing to follow just one of those conditions may leave you open to prosecution," he adds.

According to Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency, there were 45 offences recorded for ‘causing a bushfire’ during 2016.

Crime Stoppers Victoria has helped make over 20,000 arrests, collected information to lay more than 80,000 charges and assisted in the recovery of $212 million dollars’ worth of property, drugs and stolen property since starting in 1987.

Report reckless or deliberate behaviour that could lead to a bushfire 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.

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