Teen accused of looting home vacated by bushfire evacuees

Yahoo News Australia and agencies

A 19-year-old man has been arrested after items were stolen from a NSW home vacated due to the bushfires.

The man broke into the rural property on Old Tumbarumba Road at Batlow, south-east of Wagga Wagga, at 3.30pm on Thursday, NSW police said.

The home was unoccupied at the time of the robbery, officers said.

All residents from Batlow were ordered to leave by Thursday night, with the 130,000-hectare Dunns Road fire threatening to engulf the 1300-strong town on Friday.

Pictured are the fires threatening Bartlow. Source: NSW RFS
Residents in Batlow, NSW, were told to evacuate by Thursday. Source: NSW RFS

The man allegedly searched the home before stealing a Ford Falcon sedan and driving erratically along Old Tumbarumba Road, Batlow.

Officers with the Riverina Police District initiated a police chase, but it was terminated due to safety concerns a short time after.

However, police later located the Ford Falcon, which had crashed into a tree.

When police searched the vehicle, they found a backpack of items they believe to have been stolen, including jewellery, documentation and ammunition.

The bag was seized and is undergoing forensic examination.

The investigation is ongoing.

Following the collision with the tree, the 19-year-old was taken to Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, where he is in a stable condition and remains under police guard.

Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, with the State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON), said in addition to preserving life, the police are also committed to securing property.

“Local police numbers are being bolstered by the Public Order and Riot Squad, the Police Transport Command, and Traffic and Highway Patrol Command to ensure regular patrols are conducted throughout the bushfire affected areas,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.

“Any reports of these criminal acts will be thoroughly investigated. This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated by police or the wider community, and we will take immediate action to bring these people before the courts.

“I also ask members of the community to be vigilant – if you see a crime being committed, call Triple Zero immediately.”

The Dunns Road fire is currently at a ‘Watch and Act’ level.

Those in Batlow and Wondalga have been advised to travel north towards Wagga Wagga, through Adelong via Batlow Road and Old Tumbarumba Road then the Hume Highway and Sturt Highway.

Batlow hospital will remain closed until further notice and patients will be relocated.

Widespread extreme fire danger is forecast on Saturday for south-east NSW. The area has been deemed not safe by RFS.

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