Were the Aussie “Climate Change” Bushfires Ignited by Arson?

Burning match. By Sebastian Ritter (Rise0011) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t JoNova, and thanks to Eric Elsam – Duelling headlines; How much did arson contribute to this year’s deadly bushfire season?

‘Like nothing we’ve ever seen before’: police step up bushfire investigations

Our coverage of the bushfire crisis is free for all readers. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

By Sally Rawsthorne

Forty specialist police officers will work full-time on bushfire investigations to zero in on and profile would-be arsonists as the state continues to face the worst bushfire season in history.

The 19-year-old Strike Force Tronto has been investigating suspected arson cases since the horror season kicked off, and will now expand its remit to investigate all bushfires.

“A data collation and investigation plan has been developed to review the cause and impacts of the more than 1700 bushfires already reported to police; and consider the 12,000 fires recorded by the Rural Fire Service since August 2019,” police said in a statement released on Friday.

Of those 1700, police say that 716 were deliberate lit.

“They range from very minor behaviour right up to intentional arsonist behaviour – those that are listed as accidental right through to intentional,” State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said on Friday.

He would not say what number of those were a result of arson or the deliberate lighting of fires.

Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/like-nothing-we-ve-ever-seen-before-police-step-up-bushfire-investigations-20200124-p53udv.html

The ABC, Australia’s government owned broadcaster, is having none of the arson narrative.

The truth about Australia’s fires — arsonists aren’t responsible for many this season

By Kevin Nguyen, Tim Brunero, Sarah Thomas,Daniel Keane and Nicole Mills

Updated 18 Jan 2020, 2:21pm

Only about 1 per cent of the land burnt in NSW this bushfire season can be officially attributed to arson, and it is even less in Victoria, the ABC can reveal.

The world has been shocked by the scenes of devastation as the unprecedented destruction of Australia’s horror bushfire season rages on.

The disaster has sparked significant media speculation that many of the blazes were deliberately lit.

While it is true firebugs remain a legitimate and serious threat, we crunched the numbers provided by police and fire authorities around the country. 

The results might surprise you.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Inspector Ben Shepherd said earlier this week lightning was predominantly responsible for the bushfire crisis.

“I can confidently say the majority of the larger fires that we have been dealing with have been a result of fires coming out of remote areas as a result of dry lightning storms,” he said.

In Victoria, where about 1.2 million hectares has burned, only 385 hectares — or 0.03 per cent — have been attributed to suspicious circumstances.

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-11/australias-fires-reveal-arson-not-a-major-cause/11855022

Is arson a major contributor to the severity of Australia’s 2020 bushfires? For now I’m going with a qualified “no” – I don’t believe arson contributed significantly to the severity of this year’s fire season, though a lot more investigation is required to turn this qualified “no” into a firm conclusion.

For starters, the two competing viewpoints are to some extent comparing apples to oranges. Number of fires vs area burnt.

Fires deliberately lit tend near large towns tend to attract a rapid response, so it is no surprising deliberate fires are quickly extinguished.

On the other hand, fires deliberately ignited in densely inhabited regions could do disproportionate harm, even if only a small area is burnt before the fire is extinguished.

The police officers quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald are shocked at the number of fires lit by people this season, though they didn’t reveal how many of those fires were actually arson attempts vs arrogant disregard for fire restrictions.

There are also possible secondary effects from Arson – if firefighters are busy running around extinguishing deliberately ignited fires near towns, they aren’t free to fight fires in more remote locations.

Is Arson a serious problem? Absolutely – I think firebugs should be charged with attempted murder. It is horrifying that human lit fires have alarmed the police. Fires started by arsonists in inhabited areas could have done a lot of damage, despite only burning a comparatively small area of land.

But the real culprits which have made this year’s severe fires possible are the hot, dry weather, the irrational official persecution of individuals attempting to keep their properties safe, which has needlessly put many lives at risk, and political mismanagement of Australian woodlands and spineless appeasement of green anti-burn activists, which has allowed outrageous fuel loads to accumulate, turning much of Australia into a vast tinderbox.

We’ll always have arsonists, just as we shall always have to live with the possibility of lightning igniting fires. But there is a lot more we could be doing, to reduce the damage and harm fires do, regardless of their cause.

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Chris Hanley
January 25, 2020 3:05 pm

“… Of those 1700, police say that 716 were deliberate lit …” (NSW Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith).
Whether started by arson of accident it makes no difference, it wasn’t Climate Change™
According to The Australian Government literature:
“… Bushfires can originate from both human activity and natural causes with lightning the predominant natural source, accounting for about half of all ignitions in Australia. Fires of human origin currently account for the remainder and are classified as accidental or deliberate …”:
The ABC focus on arson, after ‘crunching the numbers’ their ‘investigators’ have concluded that “only 385 hectares — or 0.03 per cent — have been attributed to suspicious circumstances”, whatever that means.
Until official investigations have been completed it is pointless speculating as to the causes.
The very same ABC in 2015 referred to research that found that: “Most bushfires in south-eastern Australia caused by humans”:
If the ABC ‘investigators’ are correct this fire season has been very unusual so far, or maybe they are anxious to play down direct human involvement in order to accentuate the default cause of everything else CC™.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
January 25, 2020 9:15 pm


Excellent research there. Thank you.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
January 26, 2020 8:34 am

“But the real culprits which have made this year’s severe fires possible are the hot, dry weather”
Ignores the special uniqueness of the Aussie forests which are the ~75% of Eucalyptus varieties and which are the real fire hazard, regardless of temperature.
“Wildfire is a feature of the Australian landscape and many eucalypt species are adapted to fire, and resprout after fire or have seeds which survive fire. Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable; ignited trees have been known to explode.[29][30] Bushfires can travel easily through the oil-rich air of the tree crowns.[31][32] Eucalypts obtain long-term fire survivability from their ability to regenerate from epicormic buds situated deep within their thick bark, or from lignotubers,[33] or by producing serotinous fruits.[34]
In seasonally dry climates oaks are often fire-resistant, particularly in open grasslands, as a grass fire is insufficient to ignite the scattered trees. In contrast, a eucalyptus forest tends to promote fire because of the volatile and highly combustible oils produced by the leaves, as well as the production of large amounts of litter high in phenolics, preventing its breakdown by fungi and thus accumulating as large amounts of dry, combustible fuel.Consequently, dense eucalypt plantings may be subject to catastrophic firestorms.”


Bill Powers
Reply to  Chris Hanley
January 26, 2020 9:38 am

“The world has been shocked by the scenes of devastation as the unprecedented destruction of Australia’s horror bushfire season rages on.”

In one quick breath one brief sentence your takeaway: Shocked, Devastation, Unprecedented Destruction, Horror!!!!!!!!!! OMG Kill me now.

It is hard to argue that the Propaganda Ministry Is being objective when, with investigations ongoing, they make an argument against arson while simultaneously SPINning hyperbolic alarmism.

Meanwhile they have been ringing the CAGW bell conflating weather with climate (which use to be a no no) and laying it at the feet of man burning fossil fuel for the past 20 years with alarmist End of Days Hypothetical reporting riddled with the qualifiers e.g. might be, possibly, could be,

The Media can only regain credibility by saying “Wait. Let’s take a closer look. Climate Change may not be catastrophic, in which case the recommendations being made by globalist government types, the ‘Cure’ if you will, just might be more fatal than the disease.

January 25, 2020 3:19 pm

Eric thanks for the post
The Royal Commission into the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires which killed 173 people, stated “Nine of the 15 fires the Commission examined were started as a direct or indirect result of human activity; five were associated with the failure of electricity assets, and the causes of four were thought to be suspicious.”
In the the 2008/09 summer there was 17,000 fire incidents and over 300 on Black Saturday.
4/15 being suspicious is and issue.

January 25, 2020 3:27 pm

Here in Victoria
Starting a fire intentionally is a crime with a possible jail sentence.
Starting a fire by negligence can also be a crime with a possible jail sentence.
The 17,000 fire incidents in 2008/09 included incidents such as a public rubbish bin on fire- on certain days that’s a crime.

Reply to  Waza
January 25, 2020 5:48 pm

Sorry this comment was supposed to follow an earlier one that went missing.
The 2009 Victorian Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people.
The Royal Commission stated that there were 17,000 fire incidents that season and over 300 on Black Saturday.
The commission only investigated 15 in detail.
Of the 15, 5 were from faulty electric infrastructure and 4 were suspicious.
A ratio of 4 in 15 is still too high.

January 25, 2020 3:30 pm

The problem with the arson n vs not arson debate is in part due to lack of information released by police and there is certainly good reasons for that while investigations continue. The other problem is the data itself. One fire is not just one fire. In these high fuel load and dry conditions, one fire of origin can become the cause of hundreds if not thousands of spot fires which combine and become large fires in their own right. How the ‘number of fires’ is counted is very difficult to ascertain and certainly not simple to do. Burn area is by contrast very easy to quantify and has little to no correlation to number of fires. Journalism at this point has been too quick to promote their own view of causation but at best it should be regarded as purely speculation because the real story is not yet known. Only a few facts are admissible as evidence. Namely, fuel load has made disastrous fires inevitable, weather has played a role in drying out the landscape and providing the ideal conditions for combustion and combustion has occurred in a large number of locations. We do know for certain that some fires were started deliberately to cause harm. This is the true arson which is being investigated. We do know a number of fires were started inadvertently or by accident or even deliberately but with no intent to cause harm. These are not arson cases and nor are they ‘natural causes’. Lightning is known to have started some fires, the exact number is again very difficult to ascertain. In summary, the devil is in the data and until we know more, it is pointless to speculate overly much about causation.

Bill Hankin
Reply to  Pete
January 25, 2020 4:34 pm

Here in South Australia we know that the Cudlee Creek fire was started by a tree branch bringing down powerlines crossing private land . That means that two things
1: The landowner did not do anything about the issue – that is removing the trees close to the power lines

2 ; That the power supplier continued to provide power to this property despite it being a dangerous thing to do so.

Both the landowner & the power company bear legal responsibility for the devastation wrought by the Cudlee Creek fires in the Adelaide Hills.But that is years away from settlement.In the meantime Hill folk have lost homes; farmers have had farms ruined with sheds, fences & stock lost. Vingerons & orchardists have lost crops and vines and trees. The small towns have lost the Christmas holiday trade that usually happens

Reply to  Bill Hankin
January 25, 2020 6:36 pm

Was the landowner legally permitted to remove trees?

Reply to  Bill Hankin
January 25, 2020 9:50 pm


Maybe it’s possible but in the US I have never heard of a property owner being responsible for clearing trees or tree limbs from around power lines. The electric companies have easements across private property and it is their job to clear the lines of tree hazards. I would think this is common sense as a lot can go wrong with a non-utility person chopping limbs and cutting down trees close to power lines. Does Aus. really demand that property owners do this? If so, I am shocked. (Pun intended.)

Reply to  KcTaz
January 25, 2020 10:34 pm

The UK also has the power company as responsible for clearing trees around power lines under exactly the same law of easement.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  KcTaz
January 26, 2020 1:01 am

My mother wanted to get tree removed from the edge of her property in Ontario. She called Ontario Hydro and asked. They refused saying it was not their problem.

She said, “Well, OK then, I’ll have my teenage son have a go at it, but it is pretty close to the wires. I’m not sure what’ll happen.”

They arrived within an hour and cut it down safely.

If there’s any chance if a tree touching a hot wire, no novice should try their hand at “felling”. The YouTube-verse is full of negative examples of tree felling.

Reply to  KcTaz
January 26, 2020 2:09 am

Where I am in Victoria the Power Company is responsible for clearing trees around the power line that crosses my property. There is an easement where I am not permitted to plant trees and must allow access too maintenance workers.

Reply to  MarkH
January 26, 2020 4:57 am

yup and regardelss of any tree actually being tall enough to fall on lines
if its withing a certain distance they come onto your land n cut anyway
I queried the need to remove 3ft of a tiny branch 30ft below the lines?
because their sat pic said it was a hazard
sat obviously isnt set up to show heights;-/

all the plantations here with lines running through(too many) have wide cleared sections
wont stop fires if a line drops onto the grasses, but does help avoind treefal levents at least

I was staggered to see old badly leaning wooden posts holding powerlines on major highways here in Vic rural areas when I moved here, SA uses steel Ibeams with concrete fill even in rural areas for accident safety and fire/termite security
dunno why Vic powercos still use wood -its utterly stupid!!

I asked for an old pole being removed to use for fence posts for gateways
told no because you might burn it for firewood
its ok to have them burn en mass in fires, but god forbid anyone reuses them for something less hazardous to the environment
as treated CCA they are required to be Buried in a pit for disposal..which again isnt enviro sane or responsible but theres the EPA regs for you, pits of treated pine all over the place decaying for decades if at all because fungus and bugs cant do their work on it.(copper chromium arsenate treatment)

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Pete
January 25, 2020 9:39 pm

“Pete January 25, 2020 at 3:30 pm

The problem with the arson n vs not arson debate is in part due to lack of information released by police…”

They are bound to protect that information until a verdict is made in court, if a case gets to court. Most don’t.

January 25, 2020 3:31 pm

I am indebted to Dr. Jennifer Marohasy for her letter to supporters on 13 January, “ History is written or forgotten by the elites”
She comments that in terms of area burnt the bushfires of the last few weeks may be unprecedented but she attributes this to our mismanagement of the landscape including the lack of hazard reduction burning especially in eucalyptus forests.
She then quoted Justice Leonard Stretton from the 1939 Black Friday Royal Commission.
I will not set out the long extract but-
“1939 came at the end of a long drought…
….for twenty years Victoria had not seen its landscape in such travail…
…the bone dry tinder crackling underfoot …in the Forest floor…
… the rich plains denied their beneficent rains….
…dry heat and hot winds worked upon a land already dry to suck from it the last least drop of water…
And so it was that when millions of acres of the forest were invaded by bushfires which were almost State wide
there happened because of great loss of life and property the most disastrous forest calamity the State of Victoria had known.”
And then-
“ These fires were lit by the hand of man….”
Nothing of course about climate change although the concept of a warming world was well known at the end of the hot 1930s.
Dr. Marohasy argues that the summer of 1938-39 was at least as warm if not warmer than the present summer.

January 25, 2020 3:41 pm

comment image

… fires happening where more people live and where rate of people growth is highest

mere correlation or causation?

Robert Terrell
January 25, 2020 3:44 pm

I saw an article about the California fires and many of them were set! There will always be idiots who think it’s cute and funny to start fires! These people need to be caught and burned at the stake! Just sayin…

Tom Abbott
January 25, 2020 3:48 pm

From the article: “I think firebugs should be charged with attempted murder.”

I agree.

I noticed that Fox News Channel has a Fox reporter who lives in Australia (Anna) and she has been making reports from there and insisting that only one or two percent of the fires were started by arsonists, and now I know why. She is getting her information from Australia’s government-owned broadcaster.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
January 25, 2020 9:12 pm

Please note I notice the Australian ABC mention here a number of times and along with the statement it is government funded. I am Australian and I must point out there is no control on what the ABC says or does by our government. It is extremely biased against the right side of politics. 40% of its journalists are admitted green voters. 20% of the Australian public are its audience I am not one of them it became to partisan for me. It is autonomous and has a charter to be unbiased which it ignores.

James Schrumpf
January 25, 2020 3:48 pm

Wasn’t it just about five years ago that Oz got three years of good rainfall that refilled the reservoirs, and then the last two, plus this year, were very hot and dry? If so, those good wet years would grow a lot of extra foliage, that then would dry off over the last couple of years and provide extra burn material.

I tried Googling “rainfall in Australia by year”, but could it just return a link for a simple request like that? No. I got charts of averages, anomalies, charts that would have been what I wanted, but that stopped around 2010 or so. One would almost think that the search engines don’t want one to find such a simple chart.

I know if I spent more time I’d find what I wanted, but it seems odd that simple requests like that aren’t more quickly fulfilled.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
January 25, 2020 3:57 pm

You can find what you want here (BoM). But look for the regional data. Australia is a very big place. It is getting wetter in the monsoonal north, drier in the SW, and mixed in the SE.

The wet years you are thinking of were about 8 years ago.

Bill Hankin
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 4:38 pm

2016 was a very wet year in South Eastern Australia
High rivers running with floods
Even here in South Australia

Reply to  Bill Hankin
January 25, 2020 4:43 pm

But just one year.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 6:26 pm

And 2019 was very dry. But just one year…

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 9:26 pm

2019 was a dry year however there were at least 5 wetter years prior which allowed for plentiful growth, which dried in 2019 and…

How many deaths are needed to start, sorry RE-start, proper forest and fuel load management Nick?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 10:50 pm

“2019 was a dry year however there were at least 5 wetter years prior”

SE Australia, last 6 years:
2014 561.20
2015 548.29
2016 811.67
2017 570.18
2018 483.62
2019 440.75
Long term average 641.5 mm

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 26, 2020 11:25 am

“…SE Australia, last 6 years:…”

Great. So Patrick said at least the previous 5 years were wetter than 2019, and the data shows just that. In fact, the 12 years prior to 2019 (2007-2018) were wetter.

“…Long term average 641.5 mm…”

That’s the 1961-1990 baseline. Conveniently, the only 30-yr periods with average rainfall above 640 mm end within the years 1970-2001. The average of the past 30 years (604.0 mm) is not much different than the pre-1950 average (612.9 mm).

The 1900-2019 average was 624.7 mm. The 2007-2018 average was 621.3 mm. Oh the horror.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 6:06 pm

You are largely correct, with this qualification.
The latest BOM Report and the Rainfall Charts at theBOM Technical Report ( 3 – Nationwide, Murray-Darling Rainfall and NSW-Victoria) are showing the trend for the last 50 years indicate that Australia overall is wetter not drier. The 1920s and 1930s were drier than the last 20 years.
All this in spite of the exceptional 2019 summer.
All this has been canvassed on various posts here on WUWT.
So Northern Australia ( cyclones)- Rainfall increasing
Heavy Rainfall – Increasing
Southern ( or SW ) Australia – Decreasing
South Eastern Australia ( where major population centred in Melbourne and Sydney- Decreasing.
This caused Professor Andy Pitman to say at the SEI conference in May last that –
.There is no a priori reason why global warming would cause the world (or Australia)
to become more arid.
. We don’t know the cause of droughts
. We don’t know what ends droughts ( other than obviously, rain).
. there is no connection between climate change and drought ( and inferentially bushfires).
Cue Outrage.
A clarification in the Guardian followed in August where Pitman apologised for omitting “direct” before “ connection.”
It is not clear to me what “indirect” connection exists between climate change and bushfires which have occurred, often massively, over millennia both here and in the US.
Changed rainfall patterns?
Why link these to global warming?
I am aware that the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US has asserted that climate change has caused the West of America to become more susceptible to wildfires in recent decades but this is controversial to say the least.
Climate Change= Temperature increase= Wildfires is apparently logical but the international and national data contradicts this.
Your thoughts?

Reply to  Herbert
January 25, 2020 7:16 pm

” there is no connection between climate change and drought”
There is. Pitman was probably talking about global average, where if anything AGW should increase rainfall. But it shifts it around.

The clear changes affecting Australia are:
1. Monsoons coming further south, so more rain in the north, and also some summer rain in WA and SA, which didn’t get much before.
2. Westerlies that bring rain from Geraldton to W Tasmania are nt coming so far North. This is because the Hadley cell circulating from the tropics expands. The westerlies come from the descending air in that cell.

“has asserted that climate change has caused the West of America “
They also rely on such westerlies for their winter rain.

“international and national data contradicts this”
Really? We just have one very big data point in favour. But there have been quite a few in recent years.

Independent George
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 7:49 pm

First of all, your religion is an hypothesis, mired in corruption, fraud, and misinformation; and you’re a fanatic.

No matter what information, data, or graph is put in front of you, you will come up with some stupid, often irrelevant reply in response.

‘Climate change’ can’t be linked to drought because it doesn’t exist. It exists in religious name only, and in the heads of virtue signallers, the simple minded, catastrophists, and rent-seekers. And i suppose, those that would like to think of themselves as saving the planet. Maybe that’s what you are Nick, a superhero ey?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 8:20 pm

The United States had several times more fires and area burned in the 1930′ than the last 20 years. Why was not that climate change?
Re: clear changes affecting Australia: Over what period? has this happened before in the last 2 hundred years?
My response: Another cycle which is painted as “climate change”.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 10:45 pm

« International and national data contradicts this »
(1) National. The USA.
Here is the view given to the American Public-
«Thé impacts of climate change are expected to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts in many regions, and persistent droughts could force foundational changes in the way communities use and live on the land. »
– The National Drought Résilience Partnership. And-
« Prolonged dry spells mean more than just scorched lawns. Drought conditions jeopardise access to clean drinking water , fuel out of control wildfires , and result in dust storms, extreme heat events and flash flooding in the States. »
– National Resources Defence Council.
Are these hobgoblins true ?
At drought.gov,the NIDIS portal, one can see the area of the US in drought and the number affected. At present 9.6 % of the land area and 17.1 million people are experiencing drought.
Between 1999 and 2016 the Western US was gripped by intense drought.
In early 2017, an eighth of the country and 80 million people were drought stricken.
Only hurricanes are costlier to the US than drought and that largely caused by Hurricane Katrina (Ross and Lott 2003).
It is easy to persuade the public that global warming is causing drought.Warmer temperatures lead to drier conditions then to drought.
Climate scientists and government agencies regularly say droughts are becoming more frequent due to climate change.
Now to the data.
Internationally, much as the world is ‘greening ‘ not ‘browning’.
A map showing linear GIMMS NDVI ( Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) anomalies 81-06 , modified from De Jong 2011, shows this and contradicts the prophets of doom.
Two telling charts about drought are provided by US government agencies.
The first is from the EPA showing the Palmer Drought Severity Index of mean drought conditions 1895-2015.
The second is an NOAA chart of the areas of the US over the last 120 years that indicate whether the year was wetter or drier than average.
Both of these long term data sets show absolutely nothing to indicate more frequent or
more intense droughts.
(2) Internationally.
The percentage of the world in various stages of drought , June 1983 to June 2012 appears from Hao 2014.
It reveals that droughts across the world have been declining since the early 1980s.
Conclusions : More CO2 equals fewer droughts, and higher temperature equals fewer droughts.
I am indebted to geologist George Wrightstone for some of this material.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 26, 2020 4:37 am

“‘Climate change’ can’t be linked to drought because it doesn’t exist.”

At last, someone who has stood back and seen the wood for trees. Are we going to go on arguing whether there are are lots of unicorns in the world or only a few?

Linda Goodman
January 25, 2020 4:03 pm

Who Benefits from the fires? The alarmist government. So no doubt we won’t hear another word about the arsonists.

a happy little debunker
January 25, 2020 4:11 pm

Yet – we know that 87% of all fires are either man-made or suspicious.(https://www.smh.com.au/national/arson-mischief-and-recklessness-87-per-cent-of-fires-are-man-made-20191117-p53bcl.html)

Therefore the single most effective way to stop fires is to stop people from setting them.
The second most effective way to stop fires is reducing fuel loads.
The least effective way to stop fires is by controlling the atmosphere.

So when the dingleberries carp on about reducing CO2 in the atmosphere ( at only .04% of the atmosphere) to prevent fires – have the confidence to call them out as ineffective dingleberries!

Reply to  a happy little debunker
January 25, 2020 4:31 pm

“we know that 87% of all fires are either man-made or suspicious”
You are citing an opinion article by an academic of wide interests who describes himself thus:
“Paul Read is an ecological criminologist and sustainability scientist at Monash University.”
He ascertained this by looking at satellite data.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 6:08 pm

Just an observation- you may be misreading the play. I think I might be as well.
I live in Melbourne, Victoria under the left leaning Labor Government.
The above article is from the left leaning Sydney Morning Herald ( NSW has a right leaning government ).
I was really surprised this article made into the SMH. So far you have only discussed the “lies” in the right leaning Murdoch press.
Nick or Eric – what is up with that?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 6:09 pm

So what is your point Nick? Are you claiming that the study Read cited is wrong? He gave obeisance to climate change in his article, so he’s on your side, and the study is massive and in agreement with other studies in Australia and on other continents, such as North America:


It has been a while since I studied fire ecology, but it has long been known that the number of wildfires caused by human misadventure or malice predominates and relatively few are caused by lightning. Wildfires that start in remote regions tend to burn much larger areas because they are detected late, difficult to reach, and generally have low human populations. Lightning is thought to cause many of these remote-starting fires, and that may be true this year, but attributing cause to remote fires is more difficult, especially in the middle of the fire season.

When all is said and done, when yet another Royal Commission has come and gone, I expect we will find that less than 15% of this season’s fires were ‘natural’ and the rest down to humans one way or another, as was the moronic resistance to reducing fuel loads and clearing around habitations. The larger fires may turn out to have been mostly natural, but the failure to take heed of previous Royal Commissions is due to human stupidity, weak-willed politicians, and a monolithic and moronic news media that always toes the green line.

Reply to  DaveW
January 25, 2020 7:38 pm

Well stated, DaveW!

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 7:37 pm

Thus states Stokes who gets his news from the ABC…

Fires are rare in the wild.
Either they are set by lightning, which requires electrical storms or they are likely started by people.

Or are you claiming that there are mystical climate change causes?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 29, 2020 2:22 pm

Nick Stokes
“we know that 87% of all fires are either man-made or suspicious”
He ascertained this by looking at satellite data”

Satellite data, correlated by real scientists like you once were, shows that all over the world, for a long period of satellite observation, only 13% of fires observed could be correlated with lightning activity.
This is a fact.
There are very few other natural causes of fire. <<1%.
This leads by simple maths to the fact that 87% of fires are not natural.
Hence either man-made or suspicious.
I cannot see any link to Climate change in the causation of bush fires.
Apparently your evidence for climate change is so weak.
So weak.
That you resort to attacking facts rather than how the facts are presented.

Repeat after me.
There is no link to Climate change in the causation of bush fires.
87% of all fires are either man-made or suspicious.
Now you have found integrity.

Stan Sexton
January 25, 2020 4:16 pm

Haven’t over 200 been arrested for arson? Some with Arabic names? Look up “Pyroterrorism” on Wikipedia and Google it. The U.S. Forest Service had a big conference on Pyroterrorism. It’s simply Jihad on the Great Satan and Australia is part of Great Satan. Arabic magazines encourage arson by printing instructions on how to build remote-controlled incendiary devices. I know it’s not Politically Correct for the press to mention Pyroterrorism but it is real. When you have dry conditions that are favorable to big fires, some people take notice. Report any suspicious activity.

Reply to  Stan Sexton
January 25, 2020 7:43 pm

Two weeks ago, around 200 people had been charged for bushfire abuses.
Only 24 had actually been witnessed when they committed arson.

Included in the remaining 200 charges were campfires outside of permitted times/places; BBQ (Barbie) fires outside of permitted times/places; fireworks; careless smokers, etc. etc.
Stupid is as stupid does. But that does not make it ‘arson’.

Reply to  Stan Sexton
January 29, 2020 2:24 pm

Haven’t over 200 been arrested for arson? Some with Arabic names?
Some with English names, German, Scandinavian, Scottish, Brazilian Indian and Chines names.
To name a few.
Get a life.

young bill
January 25, 2020 4:24 pm

I’m a volunteer firefighter in a semi rural area of north Queensland. In general we have hot wet summers and cool dry winters so our bushfires are usually (but not always!) less serious than those further south. The vast majority of fires we attend are as a result of human activity, typically:

* cigarette butts
* angle grinding
* welding
* catalytic converter/hot exhaust (I started a very small fire myself with my tractor muffler)
* backyard burn gone wrong

In the school holidays we are often called to assist our urban colleagues to contain suspicious grass fires near populated areas. These are probably lit by school kids but there is rarely any evidence.

Arson by adults in this area is probably very rare but carelessness/stupidity is not.

It should also be borne in mind that the population of Australia was around 8 million in 1950 compared with 25 million today. Should we be surprised if there are more bushfires?

Reply to  young bill
January 25, 2020 8:55 pm

Excellent comment

Reply to  young bill
January 25, 2020 10:21 pm

Good points young bill, very good points. I live in the Gympie hinterlands and School Holidays this year were a worry. Finally some rain for the end of schoolies, though, and that is a relief. I read that the fire that took out Binna Burra was started by two teenagers smoking (and that they were not charged).

‘Arson’ needs to be defined before much can be said about its percentage (is violating a total fire ban by burning rubbish and starting a fire arson?), but even a few fire bugs can start a lot of fires.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  young bill
January 26, 2020 12:22 pm

“It should also be borne in mind that the population of Australia was around 8 million in 1950 compared with 25 million today.”

Somebody’s been busy!

January 25, 2020 4:26 pm

“Haven’t over 200 been arrested for arson? Some with Arabic names?”
No, and no.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 6:06 pm

Only 183 arrested and facing charges so far for lighting fires. Stands to reason assuming a general representation of the population that at least one might have a Muslim or arabic name, but unlikely as a result of causing or attempting to cause terror.

Reply to  Gnrnr
January 25, 2020 7:04 pm

“Only 183 arrested and facing charges so far for lighting fires.”
Again, wearily, no, that is just not true.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 10:19 pm

Um, that is true Nick, been reported in many news articles, even the ABC. Not all 183 are arson though, but that is not what I said.

Reply to  Gnrnr
January 25, 2020 10:27 pm

The police did not report that they were arrested, and only 24 were charged with lighting fires.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 10:48 pm


They were facing charges and had been arrested since august 2019. Nice deflect though to only looking at NSW and a January 1 number.



Reply to  Gnrnr
January 26, 2020 12:17 am

So what does your link say?

“This fire season, police have taken legal action – ranging from cautions to charges – against 180 people including 24 people charged over deliberately lit bushfires, 53 who allegedly failed to comply with a total fire ban and 47 who allegedly discarded a lit cigarette or match.”

It does not say
“Only 183 arrested and facing charges so far for lighting fires.”

Independent George
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 7:30 pm

Don’t lie. You haven’t seen the names.

Reply to  Independent George
January 26, 2020 2:46 am

Nick doesn’t need names, he believes….

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 8:25 pm

So far 716 out of 1700 have been determined to be deliberately lit. A mere 42% of those investigated. No doubt we shall get those who think that will be the total once all have been assessed.

Reply to  lee
January 25, 2020 9:09 pm

“A mere 42% of those investigated. “
42% of those reported to police for investigation. 6% of the 12000 fires altogether.
“reported to police” is not an unbiased sample.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2020 9:36 pm

NS, “6% of the 12000 fires altogether.” and they have only investigated 1700 out of 12000. That’s only 14% investigated.

” “reported to police” is not an unbiased sample.”

How is it biased? It merely reflects the numbers.

Perhaps you have updated numbers?

Reply to  lee
January 25, 2020 9:51 pm

Fires are reported to police when someone suspects an offence may have been committed.

Reply to  lee
January 25, 2020 11:01 pm

I notice you didn’t post on the numbers not so far investigated. Which of course they should be in due course.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  lee
January 25, 2020 11:06 pm

“Nick Stokes January 25, 2020 at 9:51 pm

Fires are reported to police when someone suspects an offence may have been committed.”

How do you know an offence has been committed Nick?

January 25, 2020 4:49 pm

What I can’t quite follow here is why the arguement over whether arson caused the fires or natural causes is a climate change issue. Are the alarmists suggesting that burning coal causes lightning to occur in forests causing devasting fires because CO2 causes drought which dries the forests and this creates the dangerous fireball. If arsonists caused the fires this somehow negates that climate change did it. Their arguments make no sense. Lightning wasn’t caused by climate change, there was no drought in the areas the fires occurred , fuel loads were at very high levels due to many factors including green policies. I don’t think any rational human being can understand how building more solar and wind farms, shutting down coal generated power, introducing a carbon tax or any CO2 reducing strategy would make any difference.
I actually think that the enthusiasm with which the greens and the left have seen fires as some apocalyptic pre cursor to a full on climate change CO2 driven Armageddon as stretching the credibility of the AGW debate in the minds of even their more ardent followers. Overseas alarmists have tried to exploit the fires to push harder on their cause not fully appreciating that all Australians understand that Australians always have and always will face serious bushfire risk on a regular basis.

John of Cairns
January 25, 2020 5:29 pm

Between the three states nearly 300 arsonists and would be arsonists have been caught. This number is ten to fifteen times the normal expected .Some kind of organisation seems obvious , and there are some very angry groups out who could do it. Lets hope the police release their findings, because all australians have a stake in it.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Eric Worrall
January 25, 2020 9:43 pm

“Eric Worrall January 25, 2020 at 6:19 pm

You don’t need organization to create an upsurge in anti-social behaviour.”

Yes you do (Usually). Communication is the key. It’s why Govn’t want to lockdown social media. I know this happened in Ethiopia circa 2005.

Reply to  John of Cairns
January 25, 2020 6:30 pm

“Between the three states nearly 300 arsonists and would be arsonists have been caught. This number is ten to fifteen times the normal expected .”
I call BS on this. Reference please?

January 25, 2020 7:17 pm

One of the weather news services did an analysis of ‘lightning strikes’ and bushfires.
A dismally mall number of lightning strikes occurred anywhere near a fire’s ignition.

You may be able to dismiss “arson” as a primary cause, but manmade should still be the major source this year.

Unless, you’re blaming kangaroo, koala bears, rabbits, dingos or tasmanian devils for causing the fires.

Gerald Machnee
January 25, 2020 8:24 pm

385 hectares due to “suspicious circumstances”
I call bogus on this one.

Eric Elsam
January 25, 2020 9:14 pm

Eric: Thanks for this article. Many question were addressed and many more will be asked and discussed as.hopefully apolitical analysis is undertaken. (Is this possible today?) Kudos to Pete for his Very astute comments.

Matthew Sykes
January 26, 2020 1:19 am

I lived in the South of France for 18 years, almost all fires there are arson.

The question about these Aussie ones is whether they were started by climate change campaigners.

Dont forget, 2021 is around the corner and there has been a massive ramp up in CAGW hype, Greta, ER, etc. These fires look very suspicious to me.

Global Cooling
January 26, 2020 2:02 am

Auto-ignition of wood requires more than 200 C: http://marioloureiro.net/ciencia/ignicao_vegt/wood_ign.pdf
Drying wood with ovens (about 100 C in one reference) is a normal industrial practice.

40-45 C in Australia is not enough. Making dry wood drier does not make it either.

My normal problem is to get firewood burning. Not an easy task. Winds can add more oxygen behaving like a turbo in an engine.

For curiosity, here is a list for gas, diesel, hydrogen, etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoignition_temperature

Reply to  Global Cooling
January 26, 2020 12:39 pm

The only time I’ve seen auto-ignition of plant matter is from a large hay stack where the hay was too damp.

Took a long time to put it out as out smoulders from the inside.

January 26, 2020 8:09 am

Excellent comments and article. I’ll take a shot at it. The let nature take its course to save the planet crowd, that won’t allow clean up to prevent loss of life and property have no consideration that humans change a lot in nature for convenience and safety and profit. Humans build dams, dig drainage ditches, construct dikes, build roads, bridges, houses, and many other things. We have vaccinations, medicines, that prevent things from killing us. And much more.

Watts Up With That has published many articles on how wrong activists have been from the sea turtle, spotted owl to the Ozone layer, yet they are still given consideration as gifted watch dogs.

It is those who would turn back the clock to a terrible time to save the world, limit progress to what they decide is safe, who are the danger. If you have a watch dog you don’t want one that can’t tell you from an intruder and bites you. The dog probably feels OK, it has done its job.

January 26, 2020 10:27 am

I put NOTHING past these people. Michael Crichton’s State of Fear scenario is not that hard to imagine these kooks doing something like torching their country to get their demands met. End’s justify the means???

Reply to  Gonzo
January 26, 2020 2:33 pm

State of Fear was my introduction to climate change alarmism. Sadly, Michael died but the real world owes him so much.

January 26, 2020 10:50 am

124 were already arrested for arson

htom trites
January 26, 2020 1:05 pm

Just as not all human deaths are murder, not all wildfires are arson. Some cases are obviously one or the other; others are perhaps legally decided although that question is not really settled to everyone’s satisfaction.

Someone accused of accidentally starting a forest fire in the middle of winter with several feet of snow on the ground would probably be in less legal danger than someone so accused when the forest is closed because of severe fire risk in the middle of summer.

Humans, not the rational creatures, the rationalizing creatures.

When you go into the woods, or out onto the plains, be sure that your fire is out, dead out. Then remember the families of Tanker 134 and pour some more water on it.

Fabio Capezzuoli
January 26, 2020 1:42 pm

What was the effect of wind?
I hear in some reports there were also high winds, but not all reports agree on this aspect.

curious fellow
January 28, 2020 10:29 am

Just wondering and not promoting any theories about the spreading of the Australian fire. Anybody look up what a fire hawk does? I find it interesting

Mr Reynard
January 28, 2020 8:28 pm

Question ?Were the Aussie “Climate Change” Bushfires Ignited by Arson?
Answer/question ? “Do bears crap in the Forest” ??

Johann Wundersamer
February 6, 2020 11:46 am

Fires deliberately lit tend near large towns tend to attract a rapid response –> Fires deliberately lit near large towns tend to attract a rapid response

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