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Man jailed for three years for deliberately lighting bushfires


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Man jailed for three years for deliberately lighting bushfires

A repeat arsonist has been sentenced to three years in jail for deliberately lighting eight bushfires in East Gippsland during the summer of 2019.Key points:Andrew Morgan, 32, has been sentenced to three years’ jail for arsonMorgan said he lit eight fires at Nowa Nowa in January to keep warm and to clear the bushMorgan was…

Man jailed for three years for deliberately lighting bushfires

A repeat arsonist has been sentenced to three years in jail for deliberately lighting eight bushfires in East Gippsland during the summer of 2019.

Key points:

  • Andrew Morgan, 32, has been sentenced to three years’ jail for arson
  • Morgan said he lit eight fires at Nowa Nowa in January to keep warm and to clear the bush
  • Morgan was homeless at the time, and suffers from drug-induced mental health problems

Andrew Morgan, 32, formerly of Orbost, was sleeping rough on a mattress on top of a picnic table at the Nowa Nowa Recreation Reserve when he lit the eight fires on January 2 and 3, 2019.

The Victorian County Court heard Morgan told police he lit the fires to stay warm and to clear the bush along the river.

One of the fires grew to 50 metres in size, while two others grew to half a hectare and water bombing helicopters were called to respond.

Morgan pleaded guilty to eight counts of intentionally causing a bushfire.

“The fires were made more serious by the sheer number of fires you separately lit, the terrain in which you lit them, and the difficulty of access firefighters had to extinguish them,” Judge Gregory Lyon said.

Morgan was sentenced as a serious arson offender as he had been convicted of similar offences twice before.

Arsonist suffers schizophrenia, court told

At 3:00pm on January 2, 2019, a family fishing by the river saw four different spot fires and called police.

Nowa Nowa walk sign

Andrew Morgan, 32 formerly of Orbost, was homeless when he deliberately lit eight fires in Nowa Nowa in January 2019.(Supplied.)

“In all, you lit seven fires on the afternoon of January 2, and this required a response from CFA trucks and tankers,” Judge Lyon said.

“Because of the difficulty in reaching the fires, further resources from police, the Department of Environment … helicopters, waterbombing aircraft, and a bulldozer were deployed.”

The fires were brought under control by 9:30pm.

The court heard Morgan lit another fire on Browns Road in Nowa Nowa the following day.

“An officer attended and saw you sitting on a log in the middle of the fire and you told the officer that you’d lit the fire the previous night because you were cold and that the fire was doing a great job,” Judge Lyon said.

“You stated that you lit the fires the previous day to clean up the bush.”

The court was told Morgan started taking methylamphetamines at the age of 25 and developed psychotic symptoms leading to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

He was admitted to psychiatric wards five times between 2012 and 2015.

The court heard in December 2015 Morgan was convicted for illegally lighting 12 separate fires.

In January 2017, he was convicted in the Bairnsdale Magistrates Court of criminal damage by fire and placed on a community corrections order.

Morgan has already served 571 days in custody and must serve at least two years in prison before being eligible for parole.

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