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South Coast NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer charged with arson

A NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer has been charged following an investigation into a spate of deliberately lit fires on the state’s far south coast.

Between Thursday 17 October 2019 and yesterday (Tuesday 26 November 2019), there have been seven fires in the Bega Valley area, which are believed to have been deliberately lit.

Officers from South Coast Police District, in consultation with the Financial Crime Squad’s Arson Unit, have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the fires under Strike Force Laurina.

Investigators have also been assisted by NSW RFS fire investigators.

As part of their inquiries, police observed a man sitting in a dual cab ute next to the Bega River about 5.20pm yesterday (Tuesday 26 November 2019).

A short time later, investigators noticed smoke and a pile of trees and grass on fire, which was reported to the NSW Rural Fire Service.

About 7pm, police attended a fire shed in Tarraganda and arrested a 19-year-old man.

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.

The man’s vehicle was also seized for forensic examination.

The man was taken to Bega Police Station, where he was charged with seven counts of cause fire and be reckless to its spread.

He was granted strict conditional bail to face Bega Local Court today (Wednesday 27 November 2019).

NSW RFS has issued the man a 'Stand Down from Membership' notice.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the Service has a zero tolerance to arson.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen firefighters going above and beyond in difficult and dangerous conditions.

“Our members will be rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many.

“This type of alleged behaviour is the ultimate betrayal of our own members, and of the broader community.

“Arson is a dangerous and criminal act. It isn’t tolerated by society. And it’s not tolerated by the RFS, or our members.

“The community has the right to be disappointed but we should not let it detract from the incredible work that firefighters have done in protecting and saving so many homes during unprecedented conditions.”

As the matter is now before court, the NSW RFS will not be providing any further comment on the matter.

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