Recklessness sparks rise in fires

Police say there has been a troubling increase in the number of fires started by reckless behaviour this summer compared to other summers, and have warned those responsible that they face hefty penalties.

The Aberfeldy fire that burnt for weeks in Gippsland, killing one man and destroying several houses was started recklessly, as was a fire that burnt near Epping on Monday night, levelling sheds and leaving five firefighters suffering smoke inhalation.

A 75-year-old man has been charged over the Aberfeldy blaze, and a 48-year-old Geelong man is expected to be charged on summons with recklessly causing a bushfire for the fire this week.

Senior Sergeant Jeff Maher, the officer in charge of the Arson and Explosives Squad, said that while he did not have statistics regarding the number of fires started by reckless behaviour, there seemed to be an increase.

The use of power tools such as angle grinders, farm equipment, grass mowers and slashers is banned on days of total fire ban or high bushfire risk.

Senior Sergeant Maher said those found guilty could be forced to pay the costs of fighting the fire and foot the damage bill.

He could not comment on any particularly fire started by irresponsible behaviour this summer.

"These are not arsonists, these are people within the community who are not complying with the fire danger period," he said.

"They are becoming a problem and they are becoming a danger to the community... Ignorance to the law is no defence at all."

Those acting recklessly can be charged with criminal damage by fire, intentionally cause bushfire and lighting a fire endangering persons.

Senior Sergeant Maher said the neighbours of people who ignored restrictions about the use of machinery should not be afraid to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

"Yours may be the property that is destroyed by this reckless act," he said.

This story Recklessness sparks rise in fires first appeared on The Age.