Aware and alert

Even with all the best protections and preventative measures, fire is an ever-present risk in the Hills during summer.
That’s why arsonists are so infuriating and frightening to those who have to spend the hot dry months scanning their environment.
It wasn’t that long ago that a more remote area of this district, Harrogate, was terrorised by an arsonist.
The perpetrator of those strings of fires –  fires that kept residents on edge and guarding the back roads – was eventually caught through a combination of proven police tactics and community co-operation.
Last year it was the southern areas of Adelaide that were targeted by an arsonist.
Now the community in the northern Hills is realising that it is facing a similar problem.
Little fires have been cropping up in the Kersbrook, One Tree Hill, Mt Crawford and Gawler areas and CFS volunteers have been quick to notice that something is very wrong.
The areas affected are all in different police regions, Elizabeth, the Hills and the Barossa, but SA Police hasn’t been running its anti-arson initiative Operation Nomad for the past 20 years without learning how to deal with such people.
Despite the start of the fire danger season being another month away, the regions have combined resources to launch more patrols and instigate other measures.
One of those measures is a large electronic sign in the main street of Williamstown warning residents and passing motorists of the situation facing the community.
If the locals didn’t know about the firebug before, they do now.
As the local police sergeant told The Courier, authorities don’t want to scare people but they need to be aware and they need to be alert because that is the best  way to catch these criminals who find it thrilling to light unwanted fires.
Police patrols cannot be everywhere all the time.
In the end it will be the locals who notice strange vehicles and behavior and who report what they see in a timely manner that will help police close the net.
And the net needs to be closed before the hot dry winds of summer turn the Hills into a tinderbox.
It’s hard enough to face an upcoming fire season with a significant fuel load without wondering if some idiot is going to put your property and your life at risk in order to satisfy some inner compulsion.
If you see something, don’t wait days – call straight away on 131 444 or Crimestoppers 1800 333 000.