Man charged with arson after bushland destroyed hundreds of hectares

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Man charged with arson after bushland destroyed hundreds of hectares

A 37-year-old man has been charged with a series of deliberately lit fires that destroyed hundreds of hectares of crops and bushland in Far North Queensland.

It took 100 firefighters, as well as dozens of landholders 12 hours to fight the blaze near Mareeba, west of Cairns, on Tuesday.

The fire threatened 25 homes and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in sugarcane, mango, lime and lychee crops across an enormous area encompassing Mareeba, Chewko and Biboohra.

Mareeba Police Acting Inspector Kyell Palmer said police had charged the man with 13 counts of setting fire to vegetation after a search of the man's home yesterday.

The man, who lives in the local area, is due to appear in Mareeba Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Acting Inspector Palmer said that they had excellent assistance from the community in regards to the information that's been provided.

We are still calling on the community that may be able to provide Dash cam or CCTV or any other evidence to come forward.

Acting Inspector Palmer said the fires were lit across an enormous area and that the full cost and scope of damage was still being assessed.

The area is known as the food bowl of the north, with a variety of crops, including sugarcane, mangoes and avocados.

Joe Bacchion, his wife and three young children live on Chewko Road and have lost over 6,000 lime trees and 600 lychee trees as well as their irrigation infrastructure in the fire.

After fighting the fire for hours, Mr Bacchion was relieved that they were able to save their home and prevent the fire from spreading to other nearby residences.

He was devastated to lose half a million dollars of trees, which he estimated to be more than half a million dollars.

We've got to start again, and we've got to pull them all out. They are completely burnt. He said they'll never return from that.

If you planned to replant all the trees, you'd need a good five or six years before you can get an income from them again, and say, five to 10 years, by the time you can get it up and established again.

I just don't know what I can afford at the moment.