Australia fires: Is arson to blame?

A firefighter in the foreground of the photo with a plume of smoke rising above a barn in the backgroundImage copyright
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New South Wales Police charged 24 people over deliberately starting bushfires

A UK government minister has been accused of using misleading figures about the number of bushfires in Australia caused by arson.

Heather Wheeler, a foreign office minister, said last week: “Very regrettably, it is widely reported on social media that 75% of the fires were started by arsonists.”

Richard Drax, a Conservative MP repeated the figure in the House of Commons this week.

He said: “In Australia 75% of fires are caused by arson.”

Mr Drax said he was quoting Ms Wheeler after he asked her a question about how the fires started.

Kerry McCarthy, an opposition Labour MP, said the figure was “fake news that is being spread by climate change deniers in Australia”.

She said the true figure for arson was less than 1%.

So do we know how many fires are started deliberately in Australia?

Portrait of Heather Wheeler, foreign office minister.


It is widely reported on social media that 75% of the fires were started by arsonists.

At this stage we don’t have an overall number – making both sets of figures difficult to evaluate. And often the cause remains unknown.

But we do know that in Queensland, police say just 114 fires out of 1,048 (about 10%) have been deliberately or recklessly lit through human involvement between September and 8…

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