CENTRAL West residents are urged to be the eyes and ears for police following a spate of deliberately lit fires across NSW during the past few months.
Currently, firefighters are in attendance at 73 blazes across the state with widespread air quality alerts in place due to smoky conditions.
Since August this year, legal action - which ranges from cautions through to criminal charges - has been taken against 54 people for 69 bushfire-related offences.
NSW Police State Crime Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said the community had an important part to play in investigations.
"Information provided to police from members of the public can help identify and apprehend an arsonist and could help the police to prevent bushfire arson occurring," he said.
"If you see someone acting suspiciously, contact police, and if you see a bushfire, members of the public should always phone triple-0."
Strike Force Tronto has also been established as the lead investigative body on suspicious or deliberately-lit bushfires which lead to death, serious injury or significant property loss.
The strike force targets potential bushfire arson and detectives work closely with individual police area commands and police districts to provide specialist assistance and advice to police on the ground.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith said detectives used a range of proactive techniques and strategies in the lead-up to and during the bushfire danger period.
"Since the Emergency Declaration last Monday (November 11), Strike Force Tronto has provided expertise to four police area commands and 12 police districts," he said.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith said reports of any deliberately-lit fire would be treated extremely seriously.
Penalties relating to bushfires under the NSW Crimes Act, the Rural Fires Act, and Rural Fires Regulation include:
- Damaging property with the intention of endangering life - up to 25 years imprisonment;
- Manslaughter - up to 25 years imprisonment;
- Starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread - up to 21 years imprisonment;
- Lighting a fire when a total fire ban is in place - up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine;
- Not putting out a fire that you have lit - up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine;
- Failing to comply with a bush fire hazard reduction notice - up to 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5500 fine;
- Light or use a tobacco product within 15 metres of any stack of grain, hay corn, straw or any standing crop, dry grass or stubble field - up to a $5500 fine.
For more information on bushfires visit the NSW Rural Fire Service or call the Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Tronto investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au.
Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.