Arson attacks in forests prompt secret camera surveillance
Nationwide efforts to help combat fire potential
Just the mention of bushfire is generally enough to bring out a nervous twitch or two, but when there are deliberate attempts to start fires then the nervousness turns to unadulterated anger and dismay.
Such has been the case in New South Wales.
So much so that additional hidden cameras have been set up in State forests around Wauchope, Taree, the Hunter, Coffs and Casino areas and ranger patrols are being ramped up in all State forests to catch arsonists, following a spate of suspicious fires.
Forestry Corporation’s Forest Protection Manager Karel Zejbrlik said many fires had been deliberately lit in north coast State forests and timber plantations, putting communities and forest visitors in danger.
“It is sickening that anyone would recklessly endanger people’s lives by deliberately lighting a fire and we are pulling out all stops to catch the people responsible,” Mr Zejbrlik said.
“We now have a total of 120 infra-red equipped cameras that can photograph faces and number plates hidden in strategic locations throughout north coast State forests and we will have additional rangers out in the forest every day looking for anything suspicious and recording the details of every number plate on every vehicle in the forest.
“We are also urging members of the community to help us catch these criminals by contacting Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 if they see anything suspicious.
“Fire season has been declared early and with the forests and conditions as dry as they are, we are already on high bushfire alert, with additional fire fighters and equipment on standby.
“So far we have managed to get these deliberately lit fires under control and we are doing whatever we can to put a stop to these arson attacks to prevent a deliberately lit fire taking hold and threatening local homes and communities.”
Across the border in Victoria, communities in high-risk bushfire areas will be safer thanks to the government’s $750 million Powerline Bushfire Safety Program, burying powerlines to significantly reduce the risk to lives and property from bushfires.
“We’re keeping the residents of Healesville and the surrounding areas safer from the risk of bushfires. These are not just words, it’s practical action,” said Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio.
The program was established to deliver on recommendations made by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission to reduce the risk of powerlines starting bushfires.
The high voltage powerline replacement works in Healesville, due for completion in January 2018, are being accelerated for the coming summer season.
This will see a total of 43km of bare-wire high voltage powerlines replaced with safer technology, ensuring residents will benefit from increased safety.
“The risk this summer is very real and we’re working to ensure Victorians have the best possible protection against bushfires.”
Healesville and the surrounding region will also benefit from other safety initiatives including:
Installation of a new sophisticated protection device at the Woori Yallock zone sub-station protecting over 650 km of powerlines
Installation of 60 adjustable automatic circuit reclosers
The provision of three back-up generators in residential care facilities in Healesville and a further nine in residential care facilities in the Yarra Valley.
“By burying these powerlines people in Healesville and surrounding areas will be safer if bushfires strike,” said Emergency Services Minister James Merlino.
Fire authorities in all states and territories have been warning of above normal fire potential this summer. Government departments and major forestry organisations have been working hand-in-hand to ensure everyone is as well prepared as possible.
Lachlan Spencer, VicForests General Manager Stakeholders and Planning said: “The Victorian timber industry performs an important service in fire suppression. Our skilled staff, specialised forest equipment and road maintenance activity provides significant firefighting resources. “There are 63 current employees at VicForests that are skilled and trained in dealing with bushfires and every year they work together with Forest Fire Management Victoria to help minimise the risks and devastation that major bushfires bring with them,” he said.
The situation is similar throughout the nation.
■ Bushfires .... the potential is high but nationwide efforts are being coordinated to be ready.