It is estimated that nationally 30-50% of all bush fires are the result of arson. The NSW Police Force has re-activated Strike Force Tronto for the 2012/13 fire season and will work with NSW RFS investigators to detect bush fire arsonists. This month’s New Arrivals reviews current literature on deliberately lit bush fires.

This month’s featured resources are:

(Journal Article)

better data on bushfire ignitions and working with high risk communities and individuals offer the best chance of minimising bushfire ignitions in Australia at the present time”

John Beale and Warwick Jones from the Australian Institute of Criminology review past and potential areas of research into bush fire arson. Statistical findings and analysis show that up to one-half of bush fires occur around capital cities and around major regional centres and that in most areas just a few postcodes account for the vast majority of fires. These areas also reflect a low socio-economic demographic.

Amongst the data used by these writers is from this Bushfire CRC report “Spatial and Temporal Trends in Bushfire Arson” report by C.J. Bryant and M. Willis.

(Journal Article)

Similar findings are also presented in this newly released paper where 60.1% of intentionally lit fires in known hotspots for the years1995-2006 were located in the densely populated areas of Catalonia. The writers hope that this information will assist and optimise the allocation of law enforcement and educational resources.

“We have shown that fire ignition causes in the region of Catalonia are not randomly distributed in space, and that the identification of ignition hotspots where most ignitions occur provides useful information on the spatial location of ignitions most likely to be affected by firefighting and police actions.”

 This one stop national website contains prevention initiatives, news, and links to other websites regarding bush fire arson. Importantly, it provides advice and information to communities about the destructive impact of deliberately lit fires on the social and economic welfare of society in order to encourage proactive preventative action.

Psychiatry, Psychology and Law (Journal: Special Bush Fire Arson Issue)

This journal issue featured six articles by leading researchers covering arson prevention, profiling, sentencing and treatments. These articles are;

  • Understanding and Preventing Bushfire-setting: A Psychological Perspective
  • “Terror among the Gum Trees” – Is our Criminal Legal Framework Adequate to Curb the Peril of Bushfire Arson in Australia?
  • Risk factors and Risk Assessment in Juvenile Fire-setting
  • Juvenile Fire-setting: A Review of Treatment Programs
  • Risk Factors for Recidivistic Arson in Adult Offenders
  • Looking at Characteristics of Adult Arsonists from a Narrative Perspective
Troy McEwan and Ian Freckelton in their opening editorial “Assessment, Treatment and Sentencing of Arson Offenders: An Overview” express concern that that “there are no specific in-custody treatment programs for arsonists, making it extremely difficult for these offenders to engage in offence-specific rehabilitation”.

The Man Who Played with Fire (Sydney Morning Herald Article)

While research into bush fire arson within the Australian context is still emerging, high profile cases such as the trial this year of a Black Saturday arsonist can be revealing. The offender was a known misfit in the Churchill community whose application to join the CFA was rejected following security checks. Leading authority on arson Rebekah Doley states that it is “not very often that the fire-starter turns out to be a surprise”. However, in our culture most people are reluctant to “dob” someone in but Doley argues that is something “we really should think harder about”.

 “You wished you took five minutes to just jot down something as small as a window was open”

Last year the IAAI (International Association of Arson Investigators) released this hands on training DVD for firefighters first on the scene of an incident. Information first responders gather, preserve and document upon arrival at a fire may become key evidence leading to a successful prosecution.

In addition the library has gratefully received two important donations from Pam Gilchrist (Sutherland) and Barry Aitchison (Monaro Team).

On 19 August 2012, Sydney photographer Sharon Quandt photographed District Exercise: Operation Reflex involving most of the brigades in the Sutherland District. This series of photos begins and concludes with a Briefing Session and Debriefing Session at ANSTO Lucas Heights, with various exercises photographed at different locations during the day. Sharon has produced a visually stunning collection of colour, and black and white photographs capturing in time the vitality, humour and commitment of a diverse group of volunteers. This item is not currently for loan but will be on display in the library.

 “At the age of sixteen, 43 years ago I was taken to my first fire by my father Henry Bottom. There was no real training in those days, but you learnt from the older members, people who knew the practical ways of fighting fire using their skills and knowledge of the bush and countryside.”  Peter Bottom

As a result of the 1939 Black Friday fires and the subsequent Royal Commission the Berridale Bush Fire Brigade was established in 1940, known then as the Snowy River Shire Fire Brigade. Since their humble beginnings, the first meeting was held on the verandah of the Berridale Hotel, these volunteer firefighters have been involved in some of the state’s major fires. Read memoirs of past and current volunteers, find out how a correctional centre became involved with the brigade, watch the CD of a series brigade photographs set to some well known songs from favourite Australian artists.

Need more information?

See new books, DVD’s, web links, journal articles for a complete list of all the latest additions to the Library catalogue.

We can also help you track down information on a specific topic or for a research project. If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email:  RFS.Library@rfs.nsw.gov.au  or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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