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Vandals using flames an ongoing concern for authorities

Authorities are concerned after vandals use fire to cause damage to council property.

SOPHIE BURGE June 25, 2014 3:45am

The use of fire by vandals to cause additional damage to council property is a growing concern for local authorities.

In the latest vandalism attack, a bin in the men’s toilet block at Finley’s Memorial Park was set alight at 5am Saturday.

Firefighters say the only reason the toilet block is still standing is because they were called almost immediately.

Fire damaged an internal wall of the toilet block, with a smashed sink and smashed window also forcing the closure of the men’s toilets until it can be repaired.

Not far away in Murray St, vandals also smashed the glass section of a petrol bowser on the same night.

Fire & Rescue firefighter John McBurnie, who was called to Saturday’s fire, says senseless vandalism is even more dangerous when fire is involved.

He said unreported, Saturday’s fire could have caused considerable damage in the park.

In some conditions, the fire could have spread, threatened nearby businesses and homes and put lives at risk, he said.

‘‘There was heaps of rubbish burned, and smoke damage to the wall,’’ Mr McBurnie said.

‘‘If we didn’t get called to the scene, the fire probably would have gone into the roof.

‘‘When you’ve got fires lit by idiots, it’s annoying and a waste of time.

‘‘Future major fires by hooligans are always a worry, fortunately at this stage they haven’t done any real life-threatening damage.’’

Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said it was the second case of extensive damage to the toilet block in a short amount of time, and said the damage was an ongoing burden to council and the community as a whole.

He said the ‘‘disgraceful behaviour’’ of the vandals punishes community members and visitors who use the Memorial Park facilities.

‘‘It’s appalling and disgraceful that the actions of a few are ruining it for the many,’’ Mr Perkins said.

‘‘It is a waste of a ratepayers’ money, a waste of staff time, a waste of time for firefighters who are volunteers and creates a poor impression for visitors.

‘‘The council cannot estimate on how much it will cost to repair the damage, however we will be fixing it as soon as we can.

‘‘This is money which could be spent on beautifying parks and gardens, not fixing criminal damage. The maintenance department runs on a tight budget and unexplained costs are detrimental.’’

Mr Perkins said council is at a loss on how to prevent the damage occurring again.

‘‘An option would be locking it up at night, which isn’t good for passers by and an option we don’t really want to pursue,’’ he said.

‘‘Memorial Park is where the bus that goes through Finley stops, so it’s a real issue.

“The matter is now in the hands of the police, as it is quite clearly criminal damage.’’

The toilet block was a target for vandals in December also, where fire was also used to cause extensive damage.

A tap in the men’s toilet was completely broken and had to be replaced.

In the ladies’ toilet, cisterns were burnt out and the lids ripped off.

Mr Perkins has encouraged anyone who sees any future suspicious activity to contact police immediately.

Anyone with information about the Memorial Park vandalism attack is asked to contact the Finley Police Station on 58831044.

You can also call CrimeStoppers on 1800333000. Reports to CrimeStoppers can remain anonymous.

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