Tags: Climate Change | Global Warming | australia | wildfires | arson | firefighter | wildlife

Teen Firefighter Charged With Setting Some Australian Wildfires

australian wildfires rage behind a police officer and a stopped car on a roadway
(Australian Broadcasting Corp/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 07 January 2020 04:08 PM

A teenage volunteer firefighter has been charged with setting seven of the wildfires that have ravaged Australia in recent months.

Blake Banner, 19, faces charges in fires that burned south of Sydney in October and November, USA Today reported.

"Police will allege in court that the man lit the fire and left the area before returning to respond to the fire as part of his duties as a volunteer firefighter," a police statement read, according to the South China Morning Post.

New South Wales Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said people "will be rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many."

Banner is among 24 people facing charges for intentionally setting blazes in the fires that have reportedly killed at least 25 people, burned 2,000 houses, and killed 500 million animals.

Authorities also have charged 53 people of refusing to comply with the nation's fire ban and 47 of throwing away a lit cigarette or match. A total of 200 people in New South Wales face some sort of charge related to the fire ban, according to USA Today.

More than 25.5 million acres of land, an area the size of South Korea, have been razed by bushfires across the country in recent weeks, according to the latest data, with the southeast particularly hard hit.

Imagery posted online from the Himawari 8 Japanese satellite and NASA's Earth Observatory showed plumes of smoke from the fires reaching as far as South America.

Australia's bushfire season started earlier than normal this year following a three-year drought that has left much of the country's bushland vulnerable to fires.

Thousands of people have been left homeless, while many in rural towns have spent days without electricity, telecommunications and, in some cases, drinking water. Military-coordinated rescue and support efforts are going on.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the crisis would have a significant economic impact as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg met chief executives of insurers Insurance Australia Group, Suncorp Group and QBE Insurance Group, and local heads of Germany's Allianz and Switzerland's Zurich Insurance Group, plus heads of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Group.

Morrison on Monday pledged A$2 billion ($1.39 billion U.S.) to a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

The Insurance Council of Australia increased its estimate for damage claims from the fires to more than A$700 million, with claims expected to jump when more fire-hit areas are accessible.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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A teenage volunteer firefighter has been charged with setting seven of the wildfires that have ravaged Australia in recent months, USA Today reported.
australia, wildfires, arson, firefighter, wildlife
Tuesday, 07 January 2020 04:08 PM
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