Fire bugs believed responsible for two large blazes

AS THE smoke clears across NSW, police are hunting arsonists responsible for major fires which forced evacuations of towns and destroyed livestock.

While harsh conditions have been blamed for the recent bushfire crisis, a handful of fire bugs are believed to be responsible for two large grass fires - one at Cessnock and another near Dubbo - and several blazes in Sydney's west.

The Cessnock fire, which broke out when a car was torched in bushland, burnt out thousands of hectares and left authorities with no choice but to evacuate the town and surrounding areas.

At least six teenagers have already been charged over a spate of Sydney fires.

Community outrage followed the bail release of three boys from Parramatta, accused of igniting fires in known trouble spots on the worst fire danger day in the state's history.

In Yass, where a 100,000ha fire devastated farms and destroyed thousands of sheep, local mayor Rowena Abby called for arsonists to be punished by being forced to help with the clean-up, including putting to death injured animals

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell promised to come down harder on arsonists and backed Ms Abbey's calls.

He has since referred the suggestion to NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith who is currently reviewing major bail reforms.

Detectives from Strike Force Tronto are investigating the role arsonists may have played in at least 20 NSW fires.
Several people have been ordered to front court for lighting a fire on a total fire ban day, an offence which carries fines of up to $2,200.

The only major fire which continues to burn in NSW is near Coonabarabran in the state's North West.

Firefighters have managed to save the town but 53 properties, 113 buildings, thousands of livestock and farm machinery have been destroyed.

The fire has burnt out 55,000ha and back burning is continuing around the region.

Light rain helped to control the fire on the weekend and heavier falls were expected to bring more relief Monday evening.

Topics:  arson bushfire fire

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