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‘We are watching’: Cops warn firebugs

A firefighter has been charged with lighting multiple fires. Picture: NSW Police
A firefighter has been charged with lighting multiple fires. Picture: NSW Police

Police have issued a warning to potential arsonists after a volunteer firefighter was charged with lighting bushfires in NSW’s Hunter Region.

An 18-year-old man was charged with deliberately lighting fires in grassland at Weston, Pelaw Main, Bellbird, Greta, Aberglasslyn, Melville, and Cessnock throughout July and August.

Detective Acting Superintendent Richard Puffett said police were committed to investigating any fires suspected of being suspicious or known to be deliberately lit, especially with bushfire season fast approaching in NSW.

“We are following you, we are watching,” Superintendent Puffett said in a direct address to those considering undertaking an act of arson.

“We are following a number of leads in relation to these type of offences. There is every chance we are watching (you) now.”

A firefighter has been charged with lighting multiple fires. Picture: NSW Police
A volunteer firefighter has been charged with lighting multiple fires. Picture: NSW Police
A firefighter has been charged with lighting multiple fires. Picture: NSW Police
The 18-year-old man allegedly returned to the fires as a volunteer firefighter to help extinguish them. Picture: NSW Police

Footage released by police shows the 18-year-old firefighter being escorted from a property in handcuffs to a police van.

He was taken to Maitland Police Station and charged with 15 offences, including 13 counts of intentionally causing fire and being reckless as to its spread and two counts of destroying property in company using fire.

He was refused bail to appear at Maitland Local Court on Thursday.

Police will allege the man returned to some of the fires as a Rural Fire Service volunteer and helped extinguish the blazes.

Cops warning to firebugs. Picture: NSW police
Detective Acting Superintendent Richard Puffett warns arsonists that police are ‘watching’. Picture: NSW police

“Our state has had a number of years of extreme weather from floods to fires – and the coming months will only get warmer,” Superintendent Puffett said.

“With a large amount of dry vegetation across our state, we are urging members of the public to be vigilant during this year’s bushfire season.

“If you see or notice anything suspicious, please contact police.

A firefighter has been charged with lighting multiple fires. Picture: NSW Police
The bushfire season begins on October 1. Picture: NSW Police

Deliberately lighting a bushfire carries a range of penalties in NSW from failing to comply with a bushfire hazard reduction notice to damaging property with the intention of endangering life and manslaughter.

Some of these offences carry a maximum penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment or a $5500 fine.

The bushfire season begins on October 1 in NSW.