Australian firefighter accused of arson amid bushfire crisis, police say

An Australian volunteer firefighter is accused of deliberately setting multiple blazes – some of which he helped put out – during one of the worst brush fires in the country’s history, police said.

The 19-year-old was arrested Tuesday in an area south of Sydney and charged with seven counts of arson, BBC reported.

This NASA Modis satellite image provided by Maxar shows smoke from wildfires burning in New South Wales, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

This NASA Modis satellite image provided by Maxar shows smoke from wildfires burning in New South Wales, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

Police said they identified a suspect after investigating a “spate” of fires in the Bega Valley that appeared to be deliberately set, according to the report.

They said they nabbed the suspect after allegedly witnessing him start a fire next to the Bega river, leave the area, and return to fight the fire with the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

The suspect, whose identity was not released, appeared before a local court on Wednesday. He is accused of setting at least seven fires since October 17.

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Per his bail agreement, he is prohibited from possessing any firefighting equipment or implements and is due back in court on December 17.

“Our members will be rightly angry that the alleged actions of one individual can tarnish the reputation and hard work of so many,” said RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons in a statement.

“This type of alleged behavior is the ultimate betrayal of our own members, and of the broader community,” he said.

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Firefighters are battling at least 130 brushfires in the state New South Wales and parts of Queensland since they broke out in October. Officials cited by BBC have warned that the worst is still to come.