$1334 fine for burning down half of Fraser Island

Fraser Island fire-lighter cops tiny $1334 fine and no conviction despite devastating more than half of the World Heritage-listed island.

Two men have been handed a tiny fine for the lighting of the small campfire which sparked off the major blaze which caused over half of the world-heritage listed Fraser Island to be devastated in previous months.

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Liam Cheshire has pleaded guilty to two charges in the Hervey Bay Magistrates Court, including unlawfully lighting a fire on October 14, 2020. The court further heard that he knew he had been “totally irresponsible and deeply sorry” for his actions which caused the blaze in a letter to the court.

“I covered the fire with sand … I truly believed it was out when leaving the following morning. I wish I could have the opportunity to reverse my decision to light the fire. It was a great mistake on my part that I will have to live with,” said Mr Cheshire.

The court heard from Acting Sergeant Sonia Edwards in which she stated that Cheshire lit the fire before a group of five campers sat around talking.

“He gathered sticks and other vegetation from nearby areas and used that to keep the fire burning,” Acting Sergeant Edwards said.

“The fire died down, he placed sand over it and then the party left very early the next day. It was not adequately extinguished. Parks and Wildlife were aware of this fire in the scrub by midday the following day. There is no factual basis that there was anything deliberate.”

In sentencing, Magistrate Guttridge said the men displayed “genuine remorse”.

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We can’t help but wonder if the punishment matches the crime in this case, or if there is any deterrent at all to those who may read of this and want to have a fire when they are specifically banned on the island.

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