A Rural Fire Service volunteer has been arrested and charged with lighting a series of bushfires on the state’s far south coast.
Seven fires have been deliberately lit in the Bega Valley area over the last five weeks.
The Financial Crime Squad’s Arson Unit have been investigating the fires in conjunction with RFS fire investigators and local police.
At about 5.20 pm on Tuesday, officers saw observed a man sitting in a dual cab ute next to the Bega River.
Shortly afterwards, investigators noticed smoke and a pile of trees and grass on fire.
Later that night, police attended a fire shed at Tarraganda and arrested a 19-year-old man.
He’s alleged to have lit the fire and left the area before returning in his role as volunteer RFS firefighter.
The man’s vehicle has been seized for forensic examination, with police alleging he is responsible for seven different blazes in recent weeks.
He’s been charged and granted strict conditional bail to face court today.
The NSW RFS has issued the man a ‘Stand Down from Membership’ notice, with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons describing it as the “ultimate betrayal” (full statement below).
Full statement from the NSW Rural Fire Service
“The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) has immediately stood down a volunteer member who has been charged over an alleged arson incident on the south coast.
NSW Police have charged the 19-year-old member with seven counts of cause fire and be reckless to its spread.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the Service has a zero-tolerance to arson.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen firefighters going above and beyond in difficult and dangerous conditions.
“Our members will be rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many.
“This type of alleged behaviour is the ultimate betrayal of our own members, and of the broader community.
“Arson is a dangerous and criminal act. It isn’t tolerated by society. And it’s not tolerated by the RFS, or our members.
“The community has the right to be disappointed but we should not let it detract from the incredible work that firefighters have done in protecting and saving so many homes during unprecedented conditions.”
As the matter is now before court, the NSW RFS will not be providing any further comment on the matter.”