VicPol Corporate

Bushfire arson

Bushfire arson has a devastating impact on the community. It has the potential to injure or kill people, cause significant financial loss, and destroy property as well as the environment.

Bushfire Arson Prevention Policy Statement 2015-18

The Bushfire Arson Policy Statement 2015-18 articulates the organisation's ongoing commitment to preventing harm caused by bushfire arson in Victoria.

What is bushfire arson?
A bushfire caused by a person intentionally or recklessly.

Arson is a serious crime
The maximum penalty for arson causing death in Victoria is 25 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire is 15 years imprisonment.

Operation Firesetter
Victoria Police, as part of Operation Firesetter, will be conducting highly visible patrols to prevent and apprehend arsonists. Investigations into suspicious fire activity and bushfire arson persons of interest will also be undertaken. Operation Firesetter is a state-wide coordinated initiative that will intensify during periods of high fire danger. 

If you see something

Victoria Police urges the community to report suspicious behaviour by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

In an emergency or if you see smoke or fire, call police immediately on Triple Zero (000).

If you know something

People who commit bushfire arson are not always strangers, they often live and work in local communities. If you have concerns about a member of your family, a friend or colleague, they might need help. You can make a confidential report to Crime Stoppers.

Say something

If you do know something, say something. You can provide information to Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000.

Alternatively you can file an online Information Report by visiting the Crime Stoppers website

How you can help – before the fire

Can you identify a person, or vehicle, you observed near the area where a bushfire occurred, or do you know of someone who has been lighting fires?

If you believe a person, or vehicle, is behaving in a suspicious manner write down the details. If you record the details straight away the more accurate they are likely to be, and the more helpful the information will be to Police.

If you are suspicious of a person or a vehicle, write down the following details:

For vehicles:

  • registration
  • make
  • model
  • colour
  • any damage to vehicle

For individuals:

  • age
  • height
  • hair colour
  • build
  • facial hair
  • clothing

How you can help – after the fire

If a fire affects your neighbourhood, try to:

  • note the description of any people who have entered or left the scene before the fire started
  • note the description of any vehicles entering or leaving the scene before the fire started
  • note any activity in the area prior to the fire starting, such as camping, firewood collecting, bushwalkers etc
  • remember the time and location where you first observed the fire

Pass this information onto Police, or anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

How can you help – reducing high risk fire activities

A large number of bushfires in Victoria could be prevented if people did not engage in reckless conduct or arson.

Like arson, a recklessly caused fire is a crime. Victoria Police will pursue anyone who, through their own reckless behaviour, starts a fire that gets out of control.

Recklessness can be a range of things such as failing to properly extinguish a campfire or using tools such as angle grinders on a day of total fire ban.

The most common causes of recklessly lit fires are:

  • burning off
  • cigarette butts
  • campfires
  • car exhausts and machinery
  • use of tools such as angle grinders and welding equipment out in the open
  • bonfires and flares

Recklessly caused fires are often viewed by the community as accidental.

In reality, the potential for injury, loss of life, property damage and drain on resources is the same as that caused by arson.

The Bushfire Arson Prevention Policy Statement 2015-18 articulates the organisation's ongoing commitment to preventing harm caused by bushfire arson in Victoria. It outlines Victoria Police's key strategic priorities and operational activities relating to bushfire prevention.

These activities are aligned to five strategic priorities which follow the principles of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC), which include:

  1. developing a better understanding of bushfire arson
  2. building effective cooperative partnerships and networks
  3. delivering a state-wide, coordinated, intelligence led response
  4. local arson prevention and detection strategies informed by best practice
  5. creating increased organisational capacity and capability

The purpose of this document is to inform our partners and reassure the community of the organisation's position for bushfire arson detection and prevention. This document is available to access and download on link from this page.

Key messages

Offences of bushfire arson can cause loss of life, widespread destruction of property and heighten fear within the community. Victoria Police recognises the serious impact bushfire can have on communities and is committed to an intelligence-led, partnership approach to preventing the incidence of bushfire arson, preserving life, protecting property and detecting offenders.

  • the social and economic costs associated with the bushfires are incredibly high and they have a devastating impact on communities, lives and properties
  • the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires of 7 February, 2009 were the largest coordinated response and community recovery operation in the State's history
  • the Bushfire Arson Prevention Strategy reinforces Victoria Police's commitment to uphold the recommendations from the VBRC (2009)
  • Victoria Police is committed to ongoing coordination, monitoring and evaluation of this Strategy
  • the Position Statement provides a clear direction for Victoria Police to proactively work towards deterring arson in Victoria

Reviewed 13 March 2019