Bitter ex-firefighter ‘lit blazes’ — (Perth Now)

SSRI Ed note: Former firefighter taking antidepressants drinks and sets dangerous grass fires.

Original article no longer available  

Perth Now

October 11, 2006 02:06pm

A FORMER firefighter who blamed fire authorities for his personal problems lit a series of blazes at a popular tourist island off Queensland, a court has been told.

Alan James Temple, 48, an electrician based on North Stradbroke Island, lit six fires in scrubland along a stretch of road on the island in the evening of July 28, 2004, Brisbane District Court heard today.

Mr Temple, who once worked for the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS), has pleaded not guilty to six counts of setting fire to growing plants.

The court heard the six fires, ranging in sizes of up to 400 sqare metres, were dotted along East Coast Road at Point Lookout.

Crown prosecutor John Copley told the jury that auxiliary fire captain Scott Cornish and his colleague Paul Smith reported seeing five grassfires, about 100m apart, when they inspected a controlled backburn within the vicinity.

Mr Copley said that when Mr Cornish and Mr Smith drove a further 100m along the road, they saw Mr Temple standing near his van, watching a small sixth fire.

When Mr Temple was caught in the high beams of Mr Cornish’s vehicle, he allegedly began stamping out the blaze.

When QFRS auxiliary officer Sarah-Beth Spence arrived on the scene, she witnessed Mr Temple launch a blistering attack on the fire service, Mr Copley has said.

“The accused was agitated and angry,” he has told the court.

“He said, ‘The fire service is responsible for my problems, all the s*** they put me through’ – which he repeated a couple of times,” Mr Copley has told the court.

“(She) saw the accused get into his van and saw him rummaging in the front of his car and hold some medication.

“He said ‘I’m taking these pills because of the stress the fire service has put me through’ … before the police arrived,” Mr Copley has told the court.

Mr Copley has told the court Mr Temple also told the firefighters he was suffering post-traumatic stress.

“(He said this was) a result of a bus crash while he was with the fire service,” Mr Copley has said.

They could smell liquor on the breath of the accused.  He stated he was taking anti-depressant medication and that he was on the edge.

Police also allegedly found a gas bottle and attachment in his van.

Mr Copley has said no one else was in the area at the time and that Ms Spence had earlier seen Mr Temple’s bronze-coloured van on the same road before the fires appeared.

“There were no direct eyewitnesses to him lighting any of these fires … the crown case is based upon circumstantial evidence,” he has said.

The trial before Judge Botting continues.