24 Australians Arrested For Intentionally Starting Fires This Season

by Valerie Williams

A total of 183 people are facing legal action in New South Wales for their role in starting fires — or making them worse

As the entire world watches Australia burn with 24 people losing their lives so far, families displaced from their homes, and animals dying by the millions, 24 people have been arrested for deliberately starting fires during the continent’s bushfire season. The two dozen arrested are among 183 facing legal action in the Australian state of New South Wales for playing a role in starting a fire — or making them worse.

According to ABC News, the arrests began in early November for those intentionally starting fires as Australia’s record-breaking bushfire season rages on. Along with the 24 people facing charges for setting fires, there are 53 accused of not complying with the state’s fire ban and another 47 facing legal action for tossing lit cigarettes or matches on land. Being convicted of starting a bushfire in Australia can carry a punishment of 21 years in prison.

New South Wales Police say that those facing legal action could receive anything “from cautions through to criminal charges,” depending on the offense.

So far, over 12 million acres have burned across Australia with 2,000 homes destroyed. People and animals are dying trying to flee the blazes and to know some are setting fires intentionally is absolutely horrifying.

New South Wales is a populous state and includes Australia’s capitol of Sydney along with the cities of Newcastle, Maitland, Central City and Wollongong. NSW has been hit very hard by the fires with The University of Sydney estimating that 480 million animals have died in the state. Almost half a billion animals in one state.

Dr. Stuart Blanch, senior manager land clearing and restoration with World Wildlife Fund-Australia, told ABC News that the damage is devastating — and widespread. “The fires have also been devastating for Australia’s wildlife and wild places, as vital areas of bush, forests and parks have been scorched and many millions of animals killed or injured,” he says. “Until the fires subside the full extent of damage will remain unknown.”

And the fires won’t be subsiding for some time, as this is only the beginning of Australia’s summer and more warm weather is coming. Fortunately, people are opening their wallets to donate money to help the continent and provide relief for their unpaid firefighting force. Comedian Celeste Barber has raised over $30 million AUD, actor Chris Hemsworth just donated $1 million of his own money while pleading with people to donate whatever they could, and many other famous names have come out to financially assist during the disaster. While money can’t solve everything, it’s definitely needed for recovery in this situation.

The kindness and generosity of those doing all they can to help stands in stark contrast to those intentionally causing more fires or participating in irresponsible behavior that contributes to the fires expanding. It’s heartening to know that legal action is being taken to punish those who commit these acts, but it would be even better if people had hearts in the first place.