It only takes a small spark to start a fire that can threaten lives and property.
Police are urging the community again this fire season to report any burn patches on walking trails, trees or shrubs immediately, as it could be signs of a bush fire arsonist.
Police know that some bush fire arsonists practice by lighting small fires, then move on to set larger, more damaging blazes. Small, burnt out patches can be significant indicators that arsonist are practising in the area.
Assistant Commissioner Bryan Fahy says these practice runs can appear as a patch of burned earth, or a scorched tree along walking trails, or even a scorched fence.
“Police need the public’s help. We need everyone to be looking for signs that an arsonist may be at work. Your information could lead us to an arsonist, and we can prevent them doing serious harm.”
“We’re asking the community to be alert and remember and keep an open mind on profiles – there is no exact profile for an arsonist; no specific age, gender or background.”
“One character trait they do share however, is that if we don’t catch them, they won’t stop.”
Police say people out in parks and rural areas should look out for people acting unusually, or dressed inappropriately.
“A good indicator is if you see something or someone that makes you stop and wonder what’s going on, that’s when you need to give police a call.”
Children have in the past been responsible for starting fires, so police are asking parents and carers to talk to them.
“Children need to know from a young age about the dangers of fire and ensure they have no access to matches, aerosol cans and glass.”
Assistant Commissioner Fahy says police maintain intelligence summaries on suspected arsonists and work with the Australian Centre for Arson Research and Treatment.
“We currently have 242 Operation NOMAD people of interest (POIs) for this season, which is up from 229 last year.”
“Of those 33 are high risk (28 last year), 53 are significant risk (77 last year) and 156 are possible risk (124 last year).”
Police visit those deemed high and significant risk regularly, including every day that is declared an Extreme or Catastrophic fire day.
Operation NOMAD is the police response to the threat of bush fires in South Australia, in support of the Country Fire Service. It commenced in October, 1992 and concentrates on reducing the incidence of bush fires caused by deliberate and reckless human activity and raising community awareness of the risks of fire.
Police also boosted the number of automatic number recognition camera (ANPRs) cars last year, to scan number plates that are then checked against the NOMAD Hot List of people of interest.
“While police are working hard to combat the arson threat, the eyes and ears of our community is still one of our most effective weapons, so we urge everyone to be alert this fire danger season.”
The signs that indicate a bushfire arsonist may be practising in your area
– Small, isolated blackened patches on the ground, or a burned shrub or bush or fences.
– Matches, lighters, sparklers left near burned patches
– Unusual behaviour or clothing; they just don’t seem to fit in. For example; not dressed for a trail walk, looking nervous when you pass.
Things you can do
– Always report a break- in and theft of any flammable liquids, chemicals or products from sheds, garages and yards to police. Keep those items in a locked shed
– Book a police presentation on arson for your high school through your local police station.
– Join an Neighbourhood Watch or Rural Watch program to help your community
If you have a business and become suspicious about the products someone is buying, for example, fire lighting equipment, quantities of flammable liquids, multiple purchases over a short period of time, make a note of their physical description and vehicle details and report your suspicions to police.
Be aware when you’re out and about; if something or someone makes you stop and wonder what’s going on, let police know.
For further information on bush fires: http://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/home.jsp
Report suspicious activity: 131 444 Police Assistance Line.
Reporting information on arsonists and their activities: Please call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or on-line at sa.crimestoppers.com.au
If you notice a fire call Triple Zero (000) for fire services.