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Australia: Legal action taken against 183 for arson-related offenses as deadly bushfires rage; at least 25 people killed

Australia: Legal action taken against 183 for arson-related offenses as deadly bushfires rage; at least 25 people killed

An RFS Crew attempts to put out a smoldering pile of railway sleepers. The sleepers measured over 600 degrees on a thermal temperature gauge 2 days after the fire front had passed through on January 06, 2020, in Wingello, Australia. Cooler conditions and light rain has provided some relief for firefighters in NSW who continue to battle bushfires across the state. Army Reserve forces and other specialist capabilities have been called in to help with firefighting efforts across Australia, along with extra Defence ships and helicopters. | Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Correction appended

Australian authorities have taken legal action against 183 people on bushfire-related offenses, some for deliberately setting fires that have ravaged parts of the nation.

Police in the state of Queensland have determined that arsonists lit 103 of the blazes. Ninety-eight culprits have been identified, 67 of them juveniles. Legal action has also been taken against people in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania on bushfire-related charges, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. 

Other local reports vary slightly, stating that police in Queensland "picked up" 101 people for setting fires, "32 adults and 69 juveniles," The Australian reports. 

In New South Wales, which has borne the brunt of the blazes, 24 people have been charged since Nov. 8 with intentionally setting the bushfires, The Australian said. 

"Since November, police have also taken legal action against 53 people for failing to comply with a total fire ban and against 47 people for discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land," the Sydney Morning Herald added, noting that legal action broadly means anything from receiving a citation to facing criminal charges.

Twenty-five people have died as a result of the bushfires since they began. Thousands of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of millions of animals and livestock have been killed.

Thus far, 13 million acres of land have burned across the continent, amassing an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, The Epoch Times noted.

Australian media reports that many people, including teenagers, are attempting to save Koala bears that have been disproportionately impacted by the fires.

Most of the fires are being set by young people aged 12 to 24, according to Janet Stanley, a bushfire expert at Melbourne University. Some of the blazes are set by young children. 

“Unfortunately, 10 percent of people who we think light fires are 10 years old or younger,” Stanley said last month in an interview with Newscorp.

The Melbourne University research fellow began researching bushfire arson after she lost her home to it in 1983.

“Older men are also prone to lighting fires,” she said. “They often have a history of child abuse and neglect. They probably dropped out of school at a very early age, living on the edge of society, likely to be unemployed, not engaged in the community.

“In most cases, they don’t intend to cause this chaos, they might just like to make a fuss,” she added.

It is estimated that around 85 percent of the fires are started by humans, either by accident or arson. Thirteen percent of the cases have been confirmed that the blazes were started by arson.

Photojournalists have snapped pictures in recent days with no special lenses showing the dire conditions, complete with red skies and smoke-filled atmospheres. The fires have been especially severe along the nation's eastern coast and has necessitated that residents evacuate to beaches for safety.

President Trump called Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Monday, offering assistance to the Australian government to help fight the fires.

Morrison tweeted his gratitude thanking Trump for the "strong messages of sympathy, support and friendship for Australia during our terrible bushfire season."

The Australian prime minister has committed more than $1.4 billion over the next two years to assist in recovery efforts.

The rural fire service of New South Wales tweeted Tuesday that 1,588 homes had been destroyed in that state alone since the fire season began, 672 of which occurred since the beginning of 2020.

Correction: January 13, 2020:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 183 people were arrested. While legal action was taken against them, not all were arrested.

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