The bushfires that threaten Australian homes and lives on a regular basis originate with a small number of common causes. One is arson, or the deliberate criminal setting of fires. The Bushfire CRC worked to reduce the number of fires by learning more about the incidence of bushfire arson.
The project collated, reviewed and assessed current juvenile arson prevention practices. It developed a better understanding about arson in Australian bushland environments.
A literature review on bushfire arson showed the current state of knowledge; its links to urban arson, the age and background of arsonists, and the times and places of offences. This review is essential reading for fire agencies and law enforcement authorities attempting to combat arson in bushfire areas.
More than 50 Bushfire Arson bulletins were published and are publicly available for discussion and advice. These publications build the knowledge of all aspects of bushfire arson – who lights fires, why they do it, and what the authorities can do about it.
A comprehensive review of trends in deliberately lit vegetation fires across Australia was distributed to AFAC Groups and individual agencies to better understand the nature of bushfire arson.
Bushfire CRC funding fostered this specialist field at the Australian Institute of Criminology with researchers including Matthew Willis, Damon Muller, Colleen Bryant and Warwick Jones helping investigators, prosecutors and land management agencies to work on prevention strategies.
“By understanding why someone commits a particular criminal act, you can start to look at ways of stopping them,” Willis said. “Our work on the motives and patterns behind bushfire arson produced practical information that police, fire services and land managers can use to target investigations and prevention campaigns. By knowing where and when bushfires are most likely to be lit, and who is likely to be lighting them, stakeholders can more effectively target their resources.”
This important Bushfire CRC research into understanding the trends in deliberate vegetation fires and using crime prevention strategies to reduce deliberate fires in Australia was used as the source documentation by the Commonwealth Attorney-General in a national workshop aimed at greater national collaboration to reduce deliberate bushfires in Australia.
In December 2011 the Minister for Emergency Management Robert McClelland launched a website on deliberately lit bushfires in Australia.
The Bushfire Arson Prevention website draws on Bushfire CRC research to educate the community about arson and provide people with the tools to identify risks and report suspicious activity.