A baby-faced volunteer firefighter charged with deliberately lighting blazes before helping extinguish them with his colleagues published a video of a fire just months before the alleged offences took place and shortly after he lost his mother.
Jack Hardidge, 18, was arrested on Wednesday morning by arson unit detectives who later charged him with 15 offences, including 13 counts of intentionally causing fire and being reckless as to its spread, and two counts of destroying property up to the value of $2,000.
Police will allege in court Hardidge deliberately lit fires in grassland at various sites in the Hunter Valley, including Weston, Pelaw Main, Bellbird, Greta, Aberglasslyn, Melville, and Cessnock, on several occasions in July and August this year.
Jack Hardidge (pictured), 18, was arrested on Wednesday morning by arson unit detectives who later charged him with 15 offences, including 13 counts of intentionally causing fire and being reckless as to its spread, and two counts of destroying property up to the value of $2,000
It will be further alleged that the man later attended some of the fires as an NSW RFS volunteer and assisted in extinguishing the blazes.
Now, Daily Mail Australia can reveal Hardidge shared a video on TikTok in May which appears to glamourise firefighting, shortly after his mother died in March.
Set to an intense drum-beat crescendo, the video begins with the quoted caption ‘Fire fighting is boring’ alongside a picture of Hardidge posing with his thumb up in his firefighting gear with smoke wreathed behind him.
‘Not for me,’ the caption responds as the camera pans to rows of flames engulfing trees and shrubbery as smoke billows into the sky.
The teenager, who volunteers with the Maitland Vale/Luskintyre in the NSW Rural Fire Service, captioned the video ‘love it’.
The teenager (pcitured) volunteers with the Maitland Vale/Luskintyre in the NSW Rural Fire Service
Hardidge is pictured with his mother Jennifer, who died aged 41 in March this year
Hardidge’s social media pages illustrate his love for his voluntary role, with action shots of him rolling out a hose and pictures of him grinning in front of a NSW Rural Fire Service centre.
Daily Mail Australia can also reveal that Hardidge lost his mother, Jennifer, in March this year.
The mother-of-four, who died aged 41, was described by her son as his ‘closest supporter and my best friend’.
Arson unit detectives descended on Hardidge’s Hunter Valley home around 8.20am on Wednesday.
He was arrested and led away by officers in handcuffs to Maitland Police Station, where he was charged with 15 offences relating to allegedly deliberately lighting fires.
Hardidge, who was barefoot and wearing a McDonald’s jumper at the time of his arrest, was refused bail to appear at Maitland Local Court later today.
The young man (pictured), who was barefoot and wearing a McDonald’s jumper at the time of his arrest, was refused bail to appear at Maitland Local Court today
Financial Crimes Squad Commander, Acting Superintendent Richard Puffett, said as the bushfire season in NSW approaches, his team was committed to investigating any fires suspected of being suspicious or known to be deliberately lit.
‘Our state has had a number of years of extreme weather from floods to fires – and the coming months will only get warmer,’ Det Acting Supt Puffett said.
‘With a large amount of dry vegetation across our state, we are urging members of the public to be vigilant during this year’s bushfire season. If you see or notice anything suspicious, please contact police.
‘Bushfires can not only be damaging, they can be deadly.’
Penalties relating to bushfires under the NSW Crimes Act, the Rural Fires Act, and Rural Fires Regulation
• Damaging property with the intention of endangering life – up to 25 years’ imprisonment
• Manslaughter – up to 25 years imprisonment
• Starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread – up to 21 years’ imprisonment
• Lighting a fire when a total fire ban is in place – up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine
• Not putting out a fire that you have lit – up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine
• Failing to comply with a bush fire hazard reduction notice – up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine