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Arson arrests hit 29 as summer sizzles

Date

Jared Lynch

Police have nabbed 29 firebugs across Victoria in the past month as Australia experiences one its fiercest fire seasons.

Since December, 195 suspicious fires have been lit. Although that number and the number of people charged with arson may seem high, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana believed firebugs were not "out of control".

Most of the alleged offenders have been teenagers being "stupid", he said.

"There have been a lot of young people involved," Mr Fontana said. "Not all of them have a background in arson."

He said boredom could be a factor but added it was hard to pinpoint the reasons why people deliberately light fires.

"You can sort of stereotype the offenders of arson. Some may some sort of mental illness, others are juveniles starting out being stupid."

Mr Fontana said police are monitoring known arsonists and "people of interest" and warned they would be caught if they lit up.

Police will be stepping up patrols in fire danger areas on Thursday, when the temperature is expected to hit 39 degrees, as part of Operation Firesetter.

Nevertheless fires are continuing to be deliberately started. The most recent one was a blaze that ripped through more than 100 hectares of farm land at Little River, west of Werribee on Monday night.

Mr Fontana said investigations into that fire were continuing and no charges have been laid.

He urged people who see suspicious activity to call 000 immediately and to report all fires, no matter how small they are.

"Often there might be a fire that started and it's gone out and it might be part of a pattern and we might not be aware of it," he said.

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