‘Shocked’: Police reveal Fraser Island fire four’s reaction
THE men who allegedly lit an illegal campfire that caused extensive damage to Fraser Island have expressed shock according to one of the investigating officers.
It comes after 24-year-old Warwick man was charged with the unlawful lighting of a fire and leaving a fire unattended.
A 21-year-old Rosenthal Heights man, a 24-year-old Rosenthal Heights man and a 23-year-old Massie man have also been charged with one count each of the unlawful lighting of fires.
A 17-year-old boy will be dealt with under the Youth Justice Act.
Speaking to reporters in Maryborough on Tuesday, Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Harbison said the widespread damage caused by the fire was "totally avoidable".
"These offences are serious, they carry up to 165 penalty units, so it's quite a substantial fine," he said.
"But again, I stress, it is not alleged that we hold them accountable for the entire fire on the island.
"The act was one of stupidity. It's common knowledge you can't light fires on Fraser Island."
In total, it is estimated the fire burned about 87,000 hectares of the Island and required a mammoth firefighting effort which only came to an end when heavy rain fell seven weeks after ignition.
Det Snr Sgt Harbison said the men had been tracked down with the assistance of witnesses.
He said information had been provided to National Parks, which was followed up on.
Police will allege the men tried to extinguish the campfire after using it to cook food but embers had caused the wildfire.
"There was a large wind blowing, so it was not a safe time to light a fire by any means," he said.
"It's alleged they have tried to extinguish it in part, however at that time it was still hot and obviously an ember's come off it and taken hold in nearby bushland and that's quickly developed into a full on wildfire."
Det Snr Sgt Harbison said police had spoken with the men.
"Quite honestly they are shocked," he said.
Det Snr Sgt Harbison said police did not believe the fires were deliberate, but the result of carelessness.
"These are young persons that were enjoying themselves," he said.
Det Snr Sgt said while they hadn't handed themselves in the men had remained on the island for several days following the campfire and allegedly "held some suspicions" their campfire may have started the blaze.
The men will appear in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court on January 21.