Prison term sends warning to fire lighters

The jailing of a Eurobodalla Shire resident on Friday after he lit a fire break without a permit on Boxing Day is a warning to anyone considering lighting up this bushfire season.

Christopher Paul McMahon's hazard-reduction burn gone wrong had far-reaching consequences.

Firefighters gave evidence to police that the fire contributed to the destruction of the Wandera communications tower - which in turn stymied the ability of emergency services crews to communicate with each other as the summer emergency escalated.

They also said the loss of the tower prevented the timely delivery of warnings to householders as they came under threat on New Year's Eve and through January.

The Araluen Road resident's ill-advised decision meant fire fighting resources had to be diverted from the Clyde Mountain Fire and other urgent tasks throughout the shire.

The bushfire emergency had been going on for more than a month and resources were already stretched.

No-one needed another fire front to deal with.

Watching this slight, older man walk from Moruya Local Court was not a moment to take pleasure in - no matter how strongly we may feel about his actions.

Indulging in schadenfreude - taking delight in the troubles or downfall of others - belittles us all.

Far better to put our energy into spreading the word that all hazard reduction burns require a permit - and that the courts are prepared to jail those who act illegally.

We know already that illegal and dangerous fires have been lit at either end of our shire just in the past month or so.

Even more disturbing than the actions of those who seek to protect their own properties by unwise hazard reductions are those who set out to cause destruction.

Too often, this masthead has had cause to cover the actions of arsonists operating in our state forests and national parks.

On numerous occasions, firefighters have told us of blazes clearly deliberately lit, timed and placed to cause maximum disruption and chaos.

These kinds of fires are in a different class again to those seeking simply to protect their own property. Unfortunately, we have had little success in detaining such perpetrators.

Even at the height of the Currowan and Far South Coast fires, firefighters were forced to send resources to blazes with no obvious natural ignition.

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