POLICE say a man accused of lighting fires at Neath and Aberdare "appeared to be fascinated with the fire" which was still burning when they arrested him at the scene.
He had black marks on his legs, which looked like soot, and sat down to watch the flames, documents tendered in court say.
Jake Graham Brown, 25, is facing two charges over fires he allegedly lit on a hot and sticky day in December, 2019.
In Cessnock Local Court on Thursday, Magistrate Andrew Miller heard evidence from Brown, through his solicitor, that while he was at the scene of both fires, he didn't light them.
He said he attempted to put out the first fire, which explained the soot on his feet, and called police to report it.
The court heard that Brown is a volunteer with the NSW Rural Fire Service and that he walked to bushland at the back of his friend's house on Cessnock Road, Neath, about 8.30pm on December 27.
His friend, Dean Meredith, said he lost sight of Brown for about five minutes, and that he walked about five metres away from him into the bush.
When they first arrived, there was no sign of fire, but when Brown returned, Mr Meredith noticed a small fire.
A short time later, neighbours called police to report the fire. Brown also called police to report the fire, saying "it's f---ing burning big". Minutes later he called again to say the fire was "kinda out of control".
About 11pm police were called to another fire, near Aberdare cemetery. When they got there, Brown appeared. He was heavily intoxicated, stumbling and with slurred speech, police say.
He told police he was a volunteer firefighter, and that he had passed out in the cemetery where he'd gone to visit the gravesite of a friend, and woke up to the smell of smoke, police allege.
When an officer asked him if he had anything on him, he said he had his cigarette lighter, which he called his "flame-thrower".
Brown said he had soot on his feet because he'd used them to put out the first fire at Neath earlier that night.
He appeared to be fascinated with the fire, police said, and "sat on the ground and stared at it".
In relation to the first fire he said he had walked into the bush and seen some bikes ride past, and then he saw the fire.
Through his solicitor Brown denied lighting the fires, and eluded to an unknown motorcyclist being in the area at the same time.
However, Mr Miller said that he accepted Mr Meredith's evidence. When the two men first arrived there was no fire, and five minutes later, after Mr Brown returned from bushland, there was a fire which grew rapidly.
Mr Brown was also then found at the scene of the second fire.
There was no other logical explanation for how the fires started, and it would be "an incredible coincidence" if they'd both been started accidentally at two different locations, within a short distance, with Mr Brown appearing at each one.