*Editor’s Note: This story was marked as “False News” by an independent fact checker. An earlier version of the article stated that climate change did not contribute to the flames, and while authorities in Australia have blamed arsonists for starting the fires, this does not mean climate change didn’t play a role.
The roaring fires in Australia are horrendous. At this point, the fires have killed at least 25 humans that we know of, as well as an estimated 500 million animals. They have wiped out over 2,000 homes and 17.9 million acres of land across the 6 states of Australia.
At the last reporting, there were 130 fires burning, just in New South Wales alone, 50 of which were uncontrolled.
So far, 183 people have been arrested by New South Wales Police for fire-related crimes.
Of those, 24 are suspects of arson. The other crimes mentioned were discarding lit cigarettes, setting off fireworks and failing to comply with a total fire ban.
The fires have been raging in the region since September of last year.
Fox News commented:
“As exhausted firefighters in Australia toil in cooler weather to shore up defenses against deadly wildfires, officials announced Monday that nearly 200 people have been charged with fire-related offenses since the catastrophic wildfire season began.
The fires, fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record, have been raging since September, months earlier than is typical for Australia’s annual wildfire season.
So far, the blazes have killed 25 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and scorched an area twice the size of the state of Maryland.”
Skies 1,200 miles away from the flames have been turned orange. Air quality is understandably extremely poor.
Theories are flying around on social media with the high number of suspects contributing to the arson.
Others say the fires are a form of what has been called “arson jihad.” It was reported in November that an Islamic-supporting media organization, Quraysh Media, was encouraging followers of ISIS to start fires in the US and Europe.
The group apparently put up posters to accomplish their goal, including photos of American firefighters, well, fighting fires.
ISIS put out a directive for their members to start forest fires awhile back, but the media won't talk about it
— Sue (@Sky_Bluez) January 7, 2020
However, Melbourne University associate professor Janet Stanley had a different tale to tell.
During an interview with The Australian, she said that arsonists are “typically young males, aged 12 to 24, or older men in their 60s. There is no one profile, but generally they seem to have a background of disadvantage, a traumatic upbringing and often have endured neglect and abuse as a child.”
The professor continued:
“They are often kids not succeeding in school, or they have left school early and are unemployed. The boundaries between accidentally and purposefully are unclear because many arsonists don’t plan on causing the catastrophe that occurs.”
So far, no information has been released as to the names, ages, genders, races, or motivations of the arson suspects.
The Los Angeles Times reported that around 150 US firefighters have traveled to Australia to assist in extinguishing the fires and are expected to be gone for a month or more. Australia sent 138 firefighters to California in August of 2018 to help with the wildfires there.
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Charges were filed against a Missouri man who police say is to blame for starting wildfires in California.
Police say that at the end of September, 68-year-old Freddie Graham hopped on a flight from Missouri to San Jose. They say he rented a car, then spent the next two days starting fires as he drove the “narrow, windy roads” between Ed Levin Park and the Calaveras Reservoir in the foothills near San Jose.
Deputy District Attorney Bud Porter said Graham would light pieces of paper on fire and toss them out of his window has he drove. They believe he’s responsible for setting at least 13 fires, which collectively became referred to as the Reservoir Fire.
That fire took days to put out, burning more than 128 acres. Luckily no injuries or damaged buildings were reported.
Police thank a witness for coming forward. They say the person noticed his rental car near the blazes and took note of the license plate.
“But for that Good Samaritan coming forward with the license plate, this crime probably would never have been solved,” Porter said.
They arrested Graham while he was trying to return his rental car at the San Jose airport. They say he was actually in Milpitas for his 50th high school reunion, which he went to Saturday evening after allegedly setting the fires.
Investigators say that after he was arrested, Graham told them he and his wife had planned to drive along Calaveras Road near the reservoir together before her death in 2018.
A report by investigators reads:
“Because she passed away and could not be with him, it made him emotional, starting the fires.”
Based on what happened, he’s charged with a number of offenses including 13 felony counts of arson of brushland, as well as two charges related to committing arson during a state of emergency. On those charges alone, he faces up to 22 years in prison. His bail is currently set at $2 million.
But it’s not his first arson charge.
Police say he already faced a felony arson charge in his home state of Missouri.
According to the Kansas City Star, prosecutors in Missouri say Graham was angry at a company for not hiring him. So they say he used a lighter to set its hay truck on fire in August 2018 near his home outside Kansas City.
As a result, he entered into a “diversion program” earlier this year.
That program provides treatment and other services for lower-level offenders. Now he’s being kicked out of the program, according to Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor’s office spokesman Mike Mansur. They’re terminating him from the program as a result of the new California charges.
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