NSW Police have charged a Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer with seven counts of arson, alleging he sparked a fire in the Bega Valley region yesterday before responding to the same blaze as part of his emergency service crew.
Police state that seven suspicious fires in the area prompted a joint investigation from the South Coast Police District and the financial crime squad’s arson unit, with input from RFS experts.
As part of that investigation, authorities say they observed a man sitting in his ute near the Bega River around 5.20pm yesterday. Those investigators observed a fire in the vicinity shortly after and informed the local RFS crew.
It is alleged the man returned to the scene as part of the RFS crew. He was arrested at a Tarraganda fire shed and taken to Bega Police station, where he was hit with arson charges related to the earlier blazes.
He was granted conditional bail and faced Bega Local Court today. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the case will go before the court again on December 17.
In a statement, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons called the alleged arson an “ultimate betrayal” of the organisation and the community.
“Our members will be rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many,” Fitzsimmons said.
The NSW RFS also confirmed the man was immediately stood down from the organisation.
The harrowing allegations comes as the state continues to battle severe blazes across the state, which have killed six people and torched nearly 600 homes in so far this bushfire season.
There is no suggestion the man is liable for those incidents.Image: Dean Lewins / Getty Images