Firebugs beware: you will be caught, coastcare group warns
MEMBERS of Ballina Coastcare have a message for the people who have been deliberately lighting fires in the coastal bushland at East Ballina: "You will be caught."
The group's Lee Andresen said the first fire was started three weeks ago near the Angels Beach overpass.
Since then another four fires have been put out by local residents and the Ballina Fire Brigade.
Dr Andresen said nearby residents and members of the Coastcare group were now taking a stand.
"We're encouraging anyone who sees smoke coming from bushland to ring 000 immediately and ask for the fire brigade," he said.
"If you see someone running away from a fire, or someone getting away on a bike or a scooter, get a description of that person and give it to the police.
"Police already have a description of a possible offender.
"Additional information will be very useful."
Bushfire arson is a serious offence with heavy penalties ranging from 10 to 25 years imprisonment.
Fines up to $5500 can also apply.
If a person dies as a result of a bushfire, the perpetrator can be charged with murder or manslaughter.
Dr Andresen said members of Ballina Coastcare were very proud of the work they have been doing in the Coastal Reserve.
They are concerned that the recent hot and dry weather could lead to serious problems if a fire got out of control.
"A lot of people use these tracks in the coastal reserve, especially on weekends, and a fire could easily trap someone.
"We intend to have this behaviour stopped, and the offenders will soon be caught and dealt with."
PENALTIES FOR BUSHFIRE ARSON
Damaging property with the intention of endangering life: Up to 25 years imprisonment
Starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread: Up to 14 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