Law on Deliberately Lighting Fires in NSW


It’s reported that there have recently been “hundreds of calls” made to Crime Stoppers for Police to investigate the deliberate lighting of fires amongst the fires witnessed on Tuesday.

Police are working very hard to ascertain who if anyone was responsible for any of the fires that were lit on Tuesday. They are doing this with the assistance from the community and have already charged 2 people who allegedly impersonated firefighters.

Investigating police have so far approached people on Tuesday who have previously been under radar for “demonstrating concerning behaviour”.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith is reported saying, “We as investigators… we are going to do everything in our power to establish whether fires were suspicious, whether they were deliberately lit, and we are going to put people before a court.”

Among the people charged so far is a 36-year-old man from Lismore who was found to allegedly have possession of emergency gear with RFS insignia.

another is a 19-year-old teenager who police say was allegedly clothed in RFS uniform at the Royal National Park. He is to appear on the 4 December at the Sutherland Local Court.

In addition, police have also charged 5 more people who allegedly lit fires during a total fire ban on Wednesday.

These people were aged from 18 to 28.

Police allege that two of them were having a barbecue, while another two people were allegedly setting fire to waste and another one lit candles.

The Acting Assistant Commissioner is reported saying, “all of those individuals will either face court or receive serious infringement.”

Investigating police are asking the public to assist in disclosing anything they see as suspicious activity in this context, in the following locations in particular:

  1. New England Hwy, close to Moonbi at around 10:30am (Oxley Police)
  2. Hooka Creek Rd, Berkeley at around 2:30pm (Lake Illawarra Police)
  3. Bushland in north west Doonan Pl, Balgownie at around 3:15pm (Wollongong Police)
  4. Bradley’s Reserve, Kissing Point Rd and Canoon Rd, South Turramurra at around 3pm and 4pm (Kuring-Gai Police)
  5. Honeymoon Lookout, Cliff Dr, Katoomba at around 4:30pm (Blue Mountains Police)
  6. Morisset at around 4:30pm (Lake Macquarie Police)
  7. Royal National Park, close to Loftus at around 7pm (Sutherland Shire Police)

Law on Deliberately Lighting Fires in NSW

In NSW, there are two alternative offences relating to arsonists.

The first is section 100 Rural Fires Act 1997 (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of 5-years imprisonment and/or $110,000 fine to anyone who sets fire or causes a fire to be set on someone else’s land or property, crown property or any public authority property.

Under that section, the same penalties applies to anyone who is the occupier or owner of land, allows a fire to escape from that land in circumstances as to cause (or be likely to cause) damage or injury to a person, land or property of another person or the land or property of the crown or public authority.

The maximum penalty is 7-years imprisonment and/or $132,000 fine if a person commits the above offences knowing there is a total fire ban.

Further to this, anyone who leaves (temporarily or otherwise) any fire which that person has lit or used in the open air before the fire is thoroughly extinguished will face a maximum penalty of $5,500 and/or 12-months imprisonment.

The second is section 203E Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of 21-years imprisonment for intentionally causing a fire in circumstances he/she was reckless as to it spreading to vegetation on any public land or someone else’s land.

Being reckless as to the fire spreading to vegetation on any public land or someone else’s land is established if the person realised the possibility of this happening at the time of causing the fire yet caused the fire regardless.

What are some defences to an arson charge in NSW? Some of the defences if they apply will result in the charge being dismissed, and include the following:

  1. If you’re a firefighter or acting under a firefighter’s instructions in a situation you caused the fire in the course of a bushfire fighting operation or hazard reduction operation.
  2. If you light or cause fire and walk away without extinguishing it for purposes of cooking, heating, preparing a meal or preparing boiling water if someone else continues to use the fire in your absence.
  3. Duress or necessity.

For any questions or further insight into the law on deliberately lighting fires or arson charges please contact our friendly team 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

Our criminal lawyers from Parramatta and Sydney city CBD appear across all courts who specialise in criminal law.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.


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