A SERIAL arsonist, blamed for lighting dozens of Coalfields bushfires in the past two months, struck again three times yesterday.
Firefighters managed to extinguish the three fires around Kurri Kurri before they could take hold in the tinderbox conditions.
But fire chiefs were forced to keep truckloads of back-up crews on high alert in the horrific weather.
Furious police have vowed to track down the person responsible for yesterday’s arson attacks, and the dozens of other fires that have kept a smoke cloud hovering over the Coalfields since December 1.
There have been more than 30 bushfire callouts in Kurri Kurri since December, although the exact number of arson attacks is believed to be more than 60.
Fire crews counted at least 42 ‘‘ignitions’’ between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
‘‘I doubt there can be a more irresponsible act than lighting a bushfire knowing that the conditions could turn it into a catastrophic event,’’ Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector Brett Greentree said yesterday.
‘‘You only have to look at the recent history, both locally and the terrible Victorian bushfires, to know what can happen.’’
Arsonists face up to 14 years’ jail for deliberately lighting a bushfire and could be charged with murder if a fire they start becomes a killer.
Central Hunter police may call in bushfire investigative team Strike Force Tronto to help local specialist police. A number of suspects have been identified.
Fire crews were called to fires near Pelaw Main, in bush off John Renshaw Drive, behind houses on Hospital Road and in scrub just north of Kurri Kurri within hours of each other.
All were deliberately lit and could have easily caused a major fire near property.
Brigades from both Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service contained the fires before they could roar out of control.
But Fire and Rescue NSW senior officers called in reinforcements from as far as Charlestown and Cardiff to be on standby and crews patrolled known arson spots in trucks and on quad bikes.
Information should be forwarded to Central Hunter police or Crime Stoppers on 1800333000.