Emergency Services Minister Bob Wiese unveiled a new computer system today to improve the analysis of data and apprehension of people deliberately lighting fires and the investigation of fires that have been deliberately lit.
Mr Wiese said in launching the system that it was timely given arson investigators were examining last Friday's devastating Wooroloo fires.
The new Arson Fire Incident System would share data on deliberately lit fires between the Police Service, Fire and Rescue Service, Bush Fires Board and the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
"This new system will significantly improve the way we manage fire investigations," the Minister said.
"About half of the 10,000 bush and grass fires we have in Western Australia each year are suspected to be deliberately lit.
"These fires cause significant economic loss, destroy the environment and they frequently threaten life and property.
"Of the 3,000 property fires recorded each year, one third are believed to be deliberately lit.
"In the 1995-96 fire season, the Fire and Rescue Service of Western Australia attended more than 10,000 fires and unfortunately 10 people lost their lives.
"Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades attended over 2,300 fires and almost 600 of these were thought to have been deliberately lit.
"Given these statistics, it is important that we use every means possible to identify those people who are deliberately lighting fires and develop better ways to cut the risk to public and property."
Mr Wiese said current arson strategies were focused on property fires in urban areas. However, the incidence of bushfires was now a serious problem that existed State-wide.
The Arson Fire Incident System was part of a comprehensive strategy to combat deliberately lit fires.
"In November last year I established a Government taskforce and a community and industry consultative committee to further develop ways of minimising the incidence of deliberately lit fires," Mr Wiese said.
"These groups will look at the occurrence, causes and impact of deliberately lit fires and develop strategies to combat arson."
The taskforce will be chaired by Bush Fires Board chief executive officer Chris Back, and have representatives from Fire and Rescue Service, Police Service, Calmfire, Ministry of Justice, Education Department and Contract and Management Services.
The consultative committee will be chaired by Tony Carter, general manager of RAC Insurance, and representatives from community and industry interest groups.
It will provide advice to the taskforce on a range of issues relating to deliberately lit fires.
"I wanted to ensure there was a wide range of people on the consultative committee so that it would be an effective forum for the community and industry to help develop a strategy to deal with arson," Mr Wiese said.
Media contact: Steve Manchee 481 2133