LET'S be frank - 85 recent fires may have been started deliberately. What about the man arrested on the Northern Tablelands after a fire allegedly lit to protect his cannabis plantation got away? Or the 16-year-old boy alleged to have lit the Cobraball fire near Yeppoon which destroyed 14 homes?
Or the 20-year-old man alleged to have started the fire in Balgownie Reserve in Sydney? The list goes on.
There are many government reports on fires, including deliberately lit fires. Analysing 280,000 vegetation fires from 18 Australian fire and land management agencies, the Australian Institute of Criminology found that 13 per cent were deliberately lit, 37 per cent were suspicious and 35 per cent accidental.
Add the deliberately lit fires to the suspicious, and you have exactly 50 per cent of fires that we can probably say were lit by people, some maliciously.
Add the 35 per cent of accidentally lit fires, such as harvest fires or cigarette butts thrown from car windows.
Clearing roadsides, and creating wide firebreaks to make it harder for a fire to spread, are far more important actions than bleating "climate change".
The criminology report concludes: "It is clear that natural fires are actually quite rare and that the vast majority of vegetation fires arise from human causes, including deliberate arson."
Another report, Responding to Bushfire Arson, notes that "maximum penalties for bushfire arson are heavy ... ranging from 14 to 25 years imprisonment ... however, these penalties are seldom invoked."
If we have the penalties, do we need tougher magistrates? The report goes on, "less than one-third of those convicted received a custodial sentence when a custodial sentence was available.
"The most common length of imprisonment was two years with a one-year parole period."
Another report, Patterns in Bushfire Arson, notes: "Communities with a high propensity for arson often have a high proportion of children under 15 and lower education levels, employment rates and household income than the national average."
Clearing roadsides, and creating wide firebreaks to make it harder for a fire to spread, are far more important actions than bleating 'climate change'. The criminology report concludes: 'It is clear that natural fires are actually quite rare and that the vast majority of vegetation fires arise from human causes, including deliberate arson.'
The Copycat or Serial Arson? report may explain what would seem to have happened with our recent spate of fires. "A recent study found evidence that in Florida, arson events are clustered over periods of up to 11 days ... the tight clustering of suspicious or incendiary bushfire ignitions observed in many parts of Australia suggests that this may also be occurring locally."
The study of 100 male offenders found that "22 per cent reported copying techniques they had seen in crime shows on television" which does give cause to wonder about some of the shows our kids watch.
In the Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice series, the Deliberately Lit Vegetation Fires in Australia report has the disturbing statement that: "Children were responsible for up to 24 per cent of known fire causes by individual agencies, with the highest rates being reported by metropolitan/urban fire services. However, children under 16 years of age are likely to be significant contributors to the incidence of vegetation fires in all jurisdictions."
"How fireproof is your plan?" the voice asks as the family travels through a fire along a road lined with burning trees and debris.
My column in September warned of this very scenario with a picture of the bush and debris-strewn Holbrook Road.
We can manage the spread of fires once they start with preparation before the fire season arrives.
A report in the DA last Monday noted that: "The RFS is also seeking funding for 45km of fire breaks along railway lines south of Wagga," while talking about the importance of hazard reduction burns at places like Willans Hill, and roadside spraying and slashing along roads. A tree was torched on Red Hill Road last Monday. Car burnings are now a regular occurrence.
Wagga knows about fires, and they're not caused by climate change.