A RETAINED NSW Fire and Rescue firefighter encouraged his younger brother to light four bushfires at Kurri Kurri on two of the hottest days of 2017 so that he could get paid to extinguish them.
On the scale from compulsive pyromaniacs to volunteer firefighters eager to show their mettle, it is a unique case of serial arson; two brothers who had an "arrangement" that one would light the fires and the other would put them out.
After initially denying the charges, Craig Talman Lambkin, 28, pleaded guilty last month to lighting four blazes at Kurri Kurri, Loxford and Chinaman's Hollow in "extreme" weather conditions in January, 2017.
The DPP later applied to have his bail revoked and he is currently behind bars awaiting sentence on June 28. His brother, retained NSW firefighter Joshua Lambkin, 30, of Weston, was expected to face the first day of a judge-alone trial in Newcastle District Court on Monday into three counts of intentionally causing a fire and being reckless as to its spread and concealing a serious indictable offence of another person.
Instead, Joshua Lambkin was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to two counts of accessory before the fact to intentionally causing a fire and being reckless as to its spread, admitting to "intentionally encouraging" his brother to light the fires.
Three of those fires, at Loxford, Chinaman's Hollow and near the Kurri Kurri TAFE, were lit within minutes of each other on January 18, when the temperature reached 43.1 degrees, according to an agreed statement of facts.
The fourth, on January 24, raged out of control in bushland behind the Kurri Kurri Aquatic Centre for hours, forcing the evacuation of the packed pool, nearby homes and Kurri Kurri Hospital.
And on both days, Craig Lambkin said it was his brother Joshua who asked him to light the fires and told him the best locations, according to court documents.
One text exchange between the brothers went like this. Joshua Lambkin: "oi wots doing". Craig Lambkin: "Going up Cessnock". Joshua: "Oh ok good day". Craig: "Mmhhh let u no". Joshua: "We r keen as now already in truck". Craig Lambkin was arrested on January 24 after two witnesses saw him riding his bike out of bushland and away from the catastrophic blaze behind the aquatic centre.
Joshua will be sentenced alongside his brother in June.