News

Police fire up against reckless blazes this summer

By Liz Mellino

Victoria Police are targeting reckless behaviour this summer, with the launch of a new operation.

As temperatures rise in Greater Shepparton, police are preparing to activate Operation Safeguard — aiming to reduce the occurrence and impact of intentional and reckless fires across the state.

Operation Safeguard replaces Operation Firesetter, with the operation renamed to increase the focus on the primary cause of fires during summer: reckless behaviour.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Grainger said police would not tolerate careless behaviour that had the potential to cause widespread harm.

He said police would be adopting a hardline approach to any deliberately lit or recklessly caused bushfires.

“It might seem like leaving a campfire unattended or operating machinery on a total fire ban day is not a huge issue,” Mr Grainger said.

“The reality is the majority of fires are caused through reckless actions like these — this careless behaviour has the same potential consequences as that caused by arson, easily leading to the destruction of life and property.”

Operation Safeguard involves police having a highly visible presence, particularly in fire-prone areas on days of elevated fire danger.

Mr Grainger said police would be relentless in gathering intelligence and investigating any fire deemed suspicious.

Anyone found guilty of recklessly or intentionally causing a bushfire faces a penalty of up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Lighting a fire on a total fire ban day can also attract a fine of up to $37 000 or up to two years in jail.

Mr Grainger acknowledged the significant role the community and emergency services personnel played in helping police detect and prevent fires.

“The information provided by members of the public is a contemporary and real-time source of intelligence that police use on a daily basis,” he said.

Anyone who witnesses suspicious behaviour as it is occurring should call 000. Anyone with any information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report to www.crimestoppersvic.com.au