Australia bushfires: Police crack down on deliberate firestarters

Twenty-four alleged firestarters have been arrested in Australia after police clamped down on people deliberately starting fires.

The country is facing a catastrophic fire season, with more than six million hectares of land burned and around 1500 homes destroyed since September. At least 24 people have been killed so far.

Police in New South Wales - where almost 150 fires continue to rage - confirmed on Monday that two dozen people had been arrested for starting fires, reports 9 News.

Deliberately lighting a bushfire carries a potential prison sentence of up to 25 years, with additional manslaughter charges also possible if the fire leads to any deaths.

The crackdown - called Strike Force Tronto - was carried out by detectives from the Financial Crimes Squad's Arson Unit, who worked closely with local police.

As well as the 24 people alleged to have deliberately lit fires, 53 people faced legal action for failing to comply with a total fire ban and 47 people for allegedly discarding a lit cigarette or match on land.

Damage from the fires is estimated to be in at least the hundreds of millions of dollars.

On Monday, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a AU$2 billion recovery fund. Another $50 million recovery fund was also announced in the state of Victoria, though premier Daniel Andrews said it will ost "many hundreds of millions of dollars" to rebuild in the region. 

"It won't be $50 million, it won't be $500 million, it will be a lot more than that, but that's what we have to do," Andrews said.

Conditions had eased on Monday and Tuesday, however there were fears temperatures could rise again by Thursday.

There were also fears huge fires in Victoria and New South Wales could merge, forming a "mega blaze".