The teenager accused of starting a bushfire at Crusoe Reservoir on Friday told police he had imitated the behaviour of two boys who lit the fire on Black Saturday that claimed the life of a Bendigo man.
The 16-year-old boy, who has an intellectual disability and cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in a Victorian Children’s Court yesterday charged with intentionally starting a bushfire and lighting a fire on a total fire ban day.
Detective Senior Constable Len Ladner said the boy had gone with friends to Crusoe Reservoir for a swim about 8.30pm. “He repeatedly told his friends he wanted to light a fire and was obsessed with lighting a fire,” he said.
Detective Ladner said the boy had ignored friends who repeatedly warned him not to light the fire.
“The accused walked to an area of bushland with dry pine trees,” he said.
“He gathered wood and dry pine needles, put them in a hole and used a cigarette lighter to light the pine needles. He said the fire engulfed him right away and jumped 30 feet in the air, spreading through the pine forest.”
Detective Ladner said the accused had fled the scene by the time emergency crews arrived.
“Members from the CFA and DSE put out the fire, which measured 40 metres by 30 metres,” he said.
“They said it was lucky the wind had dropped because if it had been set an hour before it would have spread for kilometres.”
Detective Ladner said the boy was arrested on Saturday afternoon after deliberately evading police, allegedly with the help of his parents.
“In an interview the accused admitted to lighting the fires,” Detective Ladner said.
“He said he lit the fire because of depression but he would not elaborate.
“He compared his actions to that of the children on Black Saturday who lit the fire which killed a Bendigo man.
“He explained he had lit the fire in the same way they had lit the fire, with the pine needles.”
Detective Ladner said police opposed bail for the boy because he was at unacceptable risk of further offending and was a danger to the safety of the public.
“He didn’t show any remorse for his actions,” he said.
“I have no doubt he would reoffend and we are going into a really hot period again.
“He needs to receive treatment before he is released into society. There’s nothing to stop him lighting a fire again today.”
Magistrate Jennifer Tregent agreed more had to be done before the boy was released.
“My overriding concern is with the safety of the community at this time of year,” she said.
“He seems to have a fascination with those teenagers who lit those fires.
“There is something troubling this young man and we need to find out what it is before he is released into the community.”
Ms Tregent said she would adjourn the boy’s bail application until Friday.