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Firefighters battles a fire near Bendalong, Australia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Navy ships plucked hundreds of people from beaches and tens of thousands were urged to flee before hot, windy weather worsens Australia's devastating wildfires. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

24 arrested for intentionally starting fires in Australia during wildfire season

Twenty four people are facing charges for intentionally setting fires in Australia during the country’s devastating wildfire season.

Since early November, the New South Wales Police confirms they have made 24 arrests in connection with the wildfires that have ravaged the country.

This offense can result in up to 21 years imprisonment, according to NSW Police Force.

In addition to those charged with starting fires intentionally, police have taken legal action against another 159 people for bushfire-related offenses. Among them are 53 people for failing to comply with a total fire ban, as well as 47 people for discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land.

Legal action can range from cautions to criminal charges, according to the NSW Police Force.

Investigations into the cause, origin and overall impact of fires are continuing and since the latest State of Emergency was declared January 2, Strike Force Tronto has provided expertise to six police area commands and eight police districts.

Australia’s wildfires have been raging since September, months earlier than is typical for the country’s annual wildfire season.

To date, the blazes have killed 25 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and scorched an area twice the size of Maryland.

The fires have also taken a devastating toll on the country’s wildlife. Ecologists believe hundreds of millions of animals have been killed in the blazes, along with thousands of livestock.

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