Man charged with deliberately lighting fire in Queanbeyan

A former volunteer firefighter charged with deliberately lighting a grass fire in Queanbeyan on Thursday night has been remanded in custody.

It comes less than a month after the Carwoola fire ripped through 11 homes east of Queanbeyan.

Shaun Whiley, 32, of Queanbeyan, was allegedly spotted walking into long grass and setting it alight at Lochiel Street.

The former New South Wales Rural Fire Service volunteer was then followed by a witness and arrested shortly after, at around 10.40pm.

Police found a cigarette lighter on the man and charged him with intentionally causing fire and being reckless to its spread, as well as setting fire to property.

Whiley was remanded in custody overnight, and faced Queanbeyan Local Court Friday morning.

Court documents outlined the seriousness of the offence, and reasons why the man was denied bail.

“Should that fire had not been detected straight away it could have had catastrophic consequences in terms of loss of life and significant loss of property,” the court documents said.

“The accused has detailed knowledge of RFS procedures and protocols and fire related behaviour due to his former service with the RFS.”

A spokesperson from the NSW RFS confirmed Whiley had served as a volunteer but was dismissed in 2012.

The spokesperson refused to supply a reason for the dismissal but the accused’s bail conditions outlined his criminal history including break and enters, assaults, frauds, and traffic offences.

Emergency services were called to Lochiel Street just before 9pm following reports of the small fire.

Whiley was charged with intentionally causing fire and being reckless to its spread, as well as setting fire to property.

In court on Friday morning, he did not enter a plea and is due to face court again on March 31.

The NSW RFS spokesperson said while those that serve as volunteers can have criminal records, it applies logic to whether a candidate is suitable for the position.

"Depending on obviously what it is, the director of membership and services can be satisfied that the person is still a fit and proper person to be a member,” the spokesperson said.

"Volunteers can have a criminal history but we do go through the police checking service.”