About 50 people attended the community meeting with the State Crime Command Arson Unit, local police from the Mid North Coast Police District, NSW Fire and Rescue and NSW Rural Fire Service to discuss the investigation into the recent spike of fires in the Kempsey area last night.
The State Crime Command Arson Unit has spent the last two days visiting the sites of recent fires and canvassing the scenes in the Kempsey area.
Detective Sergeant Hassan El-Khansa from the NSW Arson Squad said the reason why the fires are being investigated is because of the recent increase in fire activity.
"We're up here to firstly investigate the fires that have occurred and that are occurring with an aim to identify persons of interest and to prosecute those responsible," Det Sgt El-Khansa said.
"In the process of doing this, the investigative functions will deter future fires from being lit."
Det Sgt El-Khansa also spoke about the ways in which the community can help the investigation by coming forward with any information they believe is relevant.
"One of the biggest intelligence networks that we have is the public. It's the public calling us and giving us a heads up," he said.
"It's those small bits of information that might seem pretty minor to you that can lead into something more significant for us and tie in with other information and assistance that we have available to us. So any piece of information can help.
"On some occasions people aren't comfortable giving out information and knowing it's coming from them, so we do have an anonymous system as well."
NSW RFS Lower North Coast Superintendent Lachlann Ison also addressed the community members and provided an insight into the conditions local firefighters have been facing.
"Our fire numbers are increasing to about 500 a year and our firefighters have already attended about 70 fires in August," he said.
"The increase in fire numbers does impact on our firefighters and the amount of hours they put in."
The community was invited to ask questions to gain further understanding of the investigation during the meeting.
"I know people who have admitted to lighting fires and nothing has happened," one community member said.
"It can be a scary thing for communities to think you're being targeted and being profiled," another said.
Det Sgt El-Khansa ensured the community the investigation is thorough and looking into all possibilities as to why there has been a spike in fires.
"It is our duty to investigate it and where possible put appropriate legal action in place," he said.
Preventative measures were also mentioned, including working with local firefighters to learn more about fire safety and prevention as well as programs available to become more aware of the dangers of bush fires.
The community is encouraged to help police with the investigation by contacting Crime Stoppers on 1800 333-000, to come forward and speak with police about any images, video or CCTV footage or information they might have.
"More information coming in from the public will help the investigation," Det Sgt El-Khansa said.
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