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24 people arrested and charged with arson causing Australian wildfires (newsweek.com)
74 points by bookofjoe 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

Australian here. Reckon our local news source might have better context when dealing with NSW police: https://www.smh.com.au/national/teenager-among-180-people-fa...

> This fire season, police have taken legal action - ranging from cautions to charges - against 180 people including 24 people charged over deliberately lit bushfires, 53 who allegedly failed to comply with a total fire ban and 47 who allegedly discarded a lit cigarette or match.

These are all separate charges. The 47 people who discarded lit ciggies likely got cautioned or fined, the 24 who lit fires are going to end up in gaol.

There are currently 131 fires burning in NSW alone, according to the RFS[0]. Not all of them were caused by arson, many of them are caused by lightning strikes and other natural causes. The reason this year is so bad is because of the drought that has increased the amount of fuel and hampered our ability to backburn, and cuts to funding in firefighting services.

[0]: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me

The headline is misleading. In the actual article, these weren't people deliberately trying to create wildfires, just selfish people flouting the fire ban and having a campfire/bbq. Presumably, at least.

*Edit: https://www.smh.com.au/national/teenager-among-180-people-fa... More details. There was deliberate arson (like a teenager setting fire to cars), but not intentionally aimed at burning down forests.

Not just the headline, the entire article.

My reaction to the first sentence would be that there are vindictive arsonists out there who tried to set the bush on fire:

Police in Australia have arrested and charged two dozen people they say deliberately lit blazes during the wildfire season that has so far killed at least 18 people, destroyed thousands of homes and ravaged over 10 million acres of land

However if you read it slowly, it simply states that there were people who started fires (of unknown purpose) during a time (wildfire season) when lighting fires for any reason is banned.

The only mention of it being unknown why these started was this, buried about halfway down:

"people flouting total fire bans"

Shoddy journalism at best, clickbait fanning of flames (pun intended) at worst.

From the article:

>Police in Australia have arrested and charged two dozen people they say deliberately lit blazes during the wildfire season that has so far killed at least 18 people, destroyed thousands of homes and ravaged over 10 million acres of land.

>New South Wales police said that since the beginning of November, 24 people have been charged over allegedly deliberately lighting fires as officers continue to investigate the role that arson has played in the devastation. Starting a wildfire can result in a jail sentence of up to 21 years.

Right, but that is ambiguous and potentially deceptive.

Note the first sentence you quoted, where they are trying to combine the deaths with the arrests, but don't actually do it.

On the Reddit thread Australians are talking about how this includes kids that were setting off unauthorized fireworks and people who were welding outside in fire control areas.

"Deliberately lit blazes" definitely sounds intentional, but the rest of the details is so scant on details other than accidents that I have to presume stupidity over malice.

Is there a formal enough definition of 'blazes' that we can be sure it isn't talking about a blaze in a BBQ grill or something similar and instead is referring to an act of arson?

That statement is about the 180 people. But read it again and you'll see that 24 were arrested for starting brush fires specifically.

Here's another article from the Sydney Morning Herald.


Thanks, this has more details.

> Police allege the fires were set to garbage bins, items placed outside for council clean-up, and motor vehicles.

These are definitely arson, but still not people deliberately trying to burn down forests.

What about these lines?

> ...including 24 people charged over deliberately lit bushfires.

>"Arson is not caused by climate change," he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

> New South Wales police said that since the beginning of November, 24 people have been charged over allegedly deliberately lighting fires as officers continue to investigate the role that arson has played in the devastation.

> Police in the state have also taken legal action against a further 159 people. Among them are 53 people who allegedly failed to comply with a total fire ban and 47 people who allegedly discarded a lit cigarette or match on land.

So is the premise these people deliberately attempted to set wildfires ablaze or are they charging them with arson for ignoring a total fire ban?

I think this is also part of the disinformation campaign. AU's current administration has a lot bet on proving some other root cause and the not caused by ruling coal lobby.

Exactly this. They have found the scapegoats and are now going to enact extreme and cruel destruction on them, likely beyond what can be considered ‘justice’ so the people feel good about what has happened.

On a related note: Twitter bots and trolls promote conspiracy theories about Australian bushfires


Shouldn't this be removed for the misleading title ? This hints as if the fires were caused solely by arson which is not the case here.

What's the idea there? Insurance fraud, just causing chaos?

May be good intentions due too a little knowledge playout out bad.

For example, somebody knows about firebreaks, seen on TV how easy it looks, do a controlled burn of an area to create that firebreak and they thought - I can do that.

So without going thru court/statements of each case, hard to say for sure and certainly won't be the same brush for all, however the headline spins it. After all, some charges cover a multitude of sins and non-sins and have a stigma associated with them dependant upon the current social trends. So arson charges in the current climate(sic) of Australia would be less socialy popular than somebody charged with murder - least in some parts, that you can bet. Emotions are very high and always will be in any disaster of this scale.

But whatever their level of guilt (or not), that is 24 people who are going to feel pariah.

I really hope it's just not an entire continent out for blood.

That's not really how it works in Australia. We're more focussed on (in order):

1. Helping the people who lost everything 2. Holding the country's leadership to account on why they refused to meet with fire experts before this season. 3. Prosecuting arsonists under the laws we have

You'll note that their names weren't shared, and they will be dealt with in our legal system like any other offender, from underage drinkers all the way to Cardinals in the Catholic Church.

But people starting fires (intentionally or not) is not new in Australia, sadly. What is different this year is the conditions that caused the scale of the destruction, funding cuts to fire services and the prime minister refusing to meet with fire experts, who were trying to warn him that this was going to happen.

People light loose fires everywhere all the time. Overwhelmingly by negligence, sometimes on purpose, and then yes either from strategy or pathology. Though you'd think the former group might want to pick a better time, unless truly sociopathic. Easier to blend in right now, otoh.


Though firefighters starting fires for something to do does happen (I went to high school with a guy busted for exactly that; he was not the type that I was shocked to hear the news), you are going way out on a Limb of Supposition there.

And as sibling points out, there’s no monetary motive, they’re volunteers for the most part. (Then again, so was my high school buddy). And the paid ones, just like the paid crew down the street from my house, get paid the same if they’re fighting fires or playing Call of Duty at the station house.

Hot shots can make up to 40 grand in one season. Some of the fire fighters at your local station could be hot shots but they might not be as well. When a forest fire erupts they (hot shots) are the first responders and are trained in a very different way from fire fighters trained to combat house fires.

These are overwhelmingly volunteers. And regular firefighters don't work on commission lol

And yes, times are tough right now. In the opposite sense of what you're saying.

It doesn't sound like terrorism (or even intentional arson) in this case, but I've always thought dry, windy, wildland-urban interface areas would be vulnerable to terrorist attacks. No smuggling of explosives etc needed, just a few guys in cars with some molotov cocktails.

(and now I'm on "a list"...)

And no fines for the people that pumped CO2 into the atmosphere and warned the climate


Stop with the strawman. A dryer, hotter climate will cause fires to get larger and do more damage. No one says that a hotter climate will cause the initial burn spontaneously.

Given the initial spark is usually lightning, which will have a higher chance of causing an out of control fire in dried out conditions, and which is certainly "spontaneous" in my view (as in, nothing we can do about it apart from monitoring), why not?

I'd say it qualifies.

That’s my point; the OP’s argument that it’s an “either or” between arson or climate change is a strawman.

Dried out conditions make initial triggers (like lightning or arson) more likely to have disastrous consequences.

Right. I'm saying that I AM saying a hotter climate will cause the initial burn spontaneously. By my definition of spontaneously, being "without human input".

What I mean is you're being needlessly defensive. The strawman completely fails even on its own terms.


Climate contributing to the ease of ignition and overall severity of the fires and climate making people into arsonists are two wildly different claims.

You are saying "contributing" while the reporting, which I copied verbatim, specifies the relationship as direct. Lots more where that comes from.

um did you not say "direct contributing factor" in your own words? The quote you provide doesn't seem to claim climate change is a sole cause, it says it will "exacerbate the conditions".

That's what it sounds like sometimes. "Fires caused by climate change".

It's because no one wants to have these philosophical arguments about whether making an issue significantly "worse" constitutes causation.

Regardless of the side you fall on, making something significantly worse is still a problem to be solved.


The entire point of that townhall article is to push the blame away from climate change as if the absurd temperatures had nothing to do with this situation.

And you're a fan of Townhall? Newsweek is just a summarizer, but Townhall is a spin rag. Nobody claims that climate change starts fires (how can an increase in temperature of a few degrees ignite a fire?) but that it makes the forest fire season longer in certain parts of the world. Your article sets up that strawman very prettily.

> Hotter and drier conditions also set the stage for human-ignited fires. "In the Western U.S., people are accidentally igniting fires all the time," Randerson said. "But when we have a period of extreme weather, high temperatures, low humidity, then it’s more likely that typical outdoor activity might lead to an accidental fire that quickly gets out of control and becomes a large wildfire."

Have you read any of the links you posted? None of them disagree with the part of my post you quoted.

I don't see these articles contradicting on what he said.

You're misguided. Newsweek is not a summarizer. They make stories up. They push lies. They are right up there with CNN.

Townhall is Conservative news, not right-wing like someone else said.

Here is one from Townhall calling out Newsweeks recent lie: https://townhall.com/columnists/dennisprager/2020/01/07/news...

The Newsweek headline is a direct quote from this Townhall article's author. In what way is that "mak[ing] stories up?" In order to get its summary of the Townhall author's quote correct, Newsweek even contacted him to ask about it: "Prager did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for elaboration on his comments Tuesday afternoon." Instead, he decided to play the persecuted conservative game for the rubes who read Townhall.

Wait, you're not a fan of Newsweek, so you're posting an alternate take from a right-wing propaganda outlet?

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