Fire starter lit four blazes in 48 hours near Rosedale
A FIFO worker has avoided going to jail after lighting four fires in a 48 hour period.
Dominic John Pope, 26, pleaded guilty in Bundaberg District Court today to four charges of lighting a fire to a crop of grass, shrub or tree near Rosedale in 2018.
The court heard Pope was working in a maintenance team clearing vegetation from a rail corridor in early October 2018.
On October 8, Pope used the work vehicle to drive to an area and set fire to a tree or shrub while he was away from his work colleagues.
He then drove back and one of his co-workers noticed smoke and 000 was called.
At another time on that same day Pope drove away to another area where he set fire to some grass.
The Rural Fire Brigade were called to the area where half an acre had been burnt.
The next day Pope again left the group and set fire to grass, trees or shrubs.
On October 10 while at work Pope again left his work group and went towards a paddock where he lit another fire.
When Pope returned one of his co-workers noticed smoke close to the township and people living there noticed the fire approaching their homes.
It was later extinguished.
Crown prosecutor Carla Ahern told the court due to some suspicions, the GPS data from the vehicle Pope was using was handed to police.
Ms Ahern said Pope became annoyed as he considered it an invasion of privacy.
She said while the vehicle was parked outside Pope's home there were 10 attempts to disconnect the GPS in a two minute period but Pope denied doing it.
Ms Ahern said data from the GPS showed the vehicle was stopped in the short amount of time prior to the fires being lit in the same locations.
She said when Pope was interviewed by police in December 2019, he denied lighting the fires.
Ms Ahern said in Pope's favour was his plea of guilty and lack of relevant history.
She described the offending as "deliberate" and "persistent".
Pope's barrister Callan Cassidy told the court his client felt "deeply embarrassed", "ashamed" and was "deeply regretful" for what he did.
Mr Cassidy said Pope's offending was out of character and there had been no offending since.
He said while his client couldn't explain why he lit the fires, he was experiencing a number of difficulties in his personal life.
Mr Cassidy said his client described his work environment at the time as "toxic" and believed there was a racial aspect to some of his treatment.
Mr Cassidy said the fires were lit in rural and remote areas and in circumstances where they would be discovered within short periods of time.
Judge Dennis Lynch took into account Pope's plea of guilty and accepted that his plea and acceptance of responsibility was evidence of his remorse.
Judge Lynch also took into account Pope was experiencing issues at the time, but said it was no excuse for what he did.
"The serious aspect of this conduct is the inherent danger of setting fires," he said.
"This is serious conduct. It was conduct engaged in, I'm satisfied, because of your own personal turmoil at the time, but that's no excuse."
He also accepted the offending was out of character.
Pope was sentenced to two years imprisonment which was wholly suspended for three years.
One day of pre-sentence custody was declared as time served.