2 Feb 2009

Arson blamed for devastating Australian fires

8:43 pm on 2 February 2009

Police in Australia believe that arsonists were to blame for some of the fires which have caused destruction in the south-east of the country.

Nearly 30 homes were destroyed in the Gippsland region of Victoria, after the state experienced its worst heatwave in 100 years.

Meanwhile, a new report suggested that half of the country's bush fires each year were started deliberately.

The Gippsland bush fires have been made worse by high winds and low humidity.

But police believe at least two of them were started by what they described as a serial arsonist.

The launch of the investigation coincided with a new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology which found that half of the country's 20,000 to 30,000 wild fires each year were started deliberately.

It said arson cost the country over $A1.5 billion each year, and that only the crimes of drug dealing, fraud and burglary did more economic harm.

The report said there was a strong link between arson and other forms of criminal behaviour.

It also found that arsonists are often attracted to careers in the fire service, or volunteer to help fight fires.

One explanation is that they get a thrill out of trying to combat the blazes.