Australia bushfires: Teen volunteer firefighter among those charged with deliberately lighting fires

A teenage volunteer firefighter has been named among those charged with deliberately lighting fires in Australia. 

As bushfires continue to ravage the country, police in New South Wales on Tuesday revealed they had cracked down on people deliberately starting fires.

As part of the operation, 24 people had been charged with deliberately lighting bushfires, 53 with failing to comply with a total fire ban and 47 people were alleged to have discarded a lit cigarette or match, police said.

Now, it has been revealed that one of those charged with deliberately lighting fires was himself a volunteer firefighter.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, investigators first became suspicious of 19-year-old Blake Banner when he turned up early to a fire.

Then, in November, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer was seen by investigators sitting in a ute near Bega River shortly before a fire was discovered in the area.

After that instance, police arrested him and charged him with deliberately lighting seven fires.

He was granted bail after pleading not guilty to the charges and will appear in court later this month, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

He was also stood down immediately from his role at the RFS.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the fires Banner allegedly lit are not related to those that destroyed hundreds of properties in the area over the new year period and left seven people dead.

According to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, there are currently around 120 fires burning across the state. Fifty of those are yet to be contained.

Earlier this week firefighters took advantage of cooler conditions, working to strengthen containment lines and on backburning operations. 

The brief respite is not expected to last long, however, with extreme conditions set to return by Friday.

The fear now is that large fires in NSW and Victoria could merge, forming a "mega blaze".

Since September, at least 25 people have died across the country due to the fires.

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