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24 Australians Allegedly Started Fires on Purpose

Others are accused of lesser fire violations
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2020 4:10 PM CST
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In this Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, photo provided by Australian Department of Defence, a Royal Australian Navy MRH-90 helicopter crew member looks out over fires burning near Cann River, Australia. The wildfires have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland.   (Private Michael Currie/ADF via AP)
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(Newser) – At least 24 people have been killed in the bushfires that have raged in Australia. The same number of people in the hard-hit state of New South Wales have been arrested and charged with deliberately setting fires there since the fall. USA Today reports one of the 24 is a 19-year-old volunteer firefighter. Blake Banner is accused of being involved in seven fires that emerged south of Sydney. Suspicions were raised after Banner was regularly among the first to arrive on the scene. ABC News reports a prison term of up to 21 years is possible for anyone found guilty of intentionally igniting a fire and recklessly promoting its growth.

Another 100 people have allegedly violated the state's fire ban or tossed a lit cigarette or match on the ground. Meanwhile, the AP reports the scope of the financial toll of the disaster became a little more clear Tuesday, with the Insurance Council of Australia doubling the estimated damage bill since just Sunday to $485 million. Australia's fire season typically runs from December to March, but drought and heat brought on a September start this year. (Read more Australia fires stories.)

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