More than 100 people have been arrested for alleged arson since the recent Australian bushfires began.
State authorities have arrested a total of 183 people in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania since November 2019, in relation to 205 bushfire-related offences, according to Australian media.
Police concluded 103 fires in Queensland had been started deliberately, with 98 people – 67 of them juveniles – identified as the culprits.
Another 47 people are accused of improperly discarding of a lit cigarette or match, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The bushfires have had devastating effects in Australia in recent months, destroying thousands of homes, killing at least 25 people and millions of animals. The flames have so far blazed through 13 million acres of land, an area twice the size of the US state of Maryland.
Crimes relating to lighting bushfires carry a sentence of up to 25 years in prison for damaging property with the intention of endangering, and 21 years in prison for starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread, under the New South Wales Crimes Act, the Rural Fires Act and Rural Fires Regulation.
Anyone caught lighting a fire during a total fire ban could face up to 12 months in prison and/or a $5,500 fine. Meanwhile, anyone seen lighting a tobacco product within 15 metres of a stack of hay, grain, corn, or any standing crop could also face a fine of $5,500.
It’s claimed around 85% of all bushfires are caused by humans, either on purpose or accidentally, according to Dr Paul Read, co-director of the National Centre for Research and Arson.
He told ABC News:
About 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson.
The remainder are usually due to reckless fire lighting or even just children playing with fire.
Writing on Monash University website, Read when on to talk about climate change’s contribution to the crisis, writing:
The jury is always out when it comes to science, as it should be, but I’d lay bets that it’s climate change affecting our seasons. And this is scary for everybody.
We need to sensibly, gently (but rapidly) adjust our ways of doing economics and politics worldwide, at the same time strengthening our capacity to cope with natural and man-made disasters. Bushfires are, after all, a combination of both.
Many people have also called out Australian leaders for failing to acknowledge the role of climate change and global warming in accelerating the spread of the blaze.