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Firey under house arrest

Accused firefighter Sidney Keogh. Photo: FACEBOOK
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A VOLUNTEER firefighter accused of deliberately starting bushfires near Wellington has been placed under house arrest.

Sidney Frances Keogh was taken into custody after police executed a search warrant at a home in Wellington on Tuesday.

The 45-year-old was refused bail and appeared handcuffed before Magistrate Philip Stewart in Dubbo Local Court on Wednesday.

Not guilty pleas were entered to two charges of intentionally causing fire and being reckless to its spread.

Prosecution facts tendered to the court said 15 deliberately lit bushfires had been reported within a 10-kilometre radius of Wellington between September 2015 and Keough’s arrest.

Keogh had responded to the fires as a serving member of the Mount Arthur Rural Fire Service brigade.

All the fires had been lit on days when the temperature was high and grass was long.

The court was told the fires burned areas of land and had potential to spread and cause significant damage and possible loss of life if they had not been contained.

Prosecution facts said Keogh had been identified as a person of interest when police strikeforce Byway was established to investigate the suspicious fires.

Keogh and his vehicle, a red Mitsubishi Pajero, had been covertly monitored by strikeforce officers.

The court was told investigators feared Keogh’s actions were “risky and escalating” and there was nothing to suggest his behaviour would cease.

Detailed information tendered to the court outlined the circumstances leading to fires on The Falls Road at 6.30pm on Sunday February 20 and the Renshaw McGirr Way at 12pm on December 14 last year.

Prosecution facts said Keogh had made admissions to police about being in both the areas around the time of the fires but he denied lighting the fires.

The prosecution asked Magistrate Stewart to refuse bail to protect the community from further damage and possible loss of life.

A solicitor made a release application and asked that Keogh be allowed to live with his mother and sisters.

The solicitor queried the “value of a curfew given the nature of the offences” and said her client could report to police three times a week.

Magistrate Stewart asked if any person was in a position to offer a cash surety. The solicitor said money could not be raised because Keogh was reliant on Newstart payments and his mother was a pensioner.

The Magistrate allowed bail with strict conditions, including daily reporting to Wellington police station and twice daily curfew enforcement checks.

Keogh was required to remain at his mother’s home and could only leave the premises in the company of an approved relative when reporting to police.

The court required a written character acknowledgement from a member of Keogh’s family.

The charges were adjourned to April 6.

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