No accident - Eight fires were deliberately lit

March 14, 2018

Firefighters battle one of the blazes which ripped through the Tongala area.

EIGHT fires that ripped through Tongala on Thursday were deliberately lit.

Arson and police investigators assessed the scenes of the blazes on Friday.

‘‘The exact cause is not known, but they have been deliberately lit on a number of local properties along Finlay and John Allan Rd,’’ Detective Sergeant Troy Wickham of Campaspe Criminal Investigation Unit said.

‘‘The fires were on the northern and southern sides of the road.’’

About 25 CFA crews and 75 firefighters spent more than seven hours battling the blazes, which threatened a home and some livestock.

They were helped by three aircraft and two shire water tankers.

‘‘The first call came in about 1.30pm and we believe there were at least eight fires, with the likelihood some were separate and joined to become one of eight,’’ Det Sgt Wickham said.

The fires burnt about 36 hectares of private land from John Allan Rd in Kyabram to the west of Scobie Rd, destroying grass and some fences.

‘‘It’s very concerning for us (that they were deliberately lit) but fortunately there was no significant damage to buildings or infrastructure,’’ Det Sgt Wickham said.

‘‘It came very close to one house and another fire was lit across the road from a house.

‘‘There was a lot of damage to fences and farmers lost a bit of dry feed.’’

CFA Campaspe Shire district 20 operations officer John Cutting said the largest fire, west of Scobie Rd, burnt through 15-20ha.

Mr Cutting said when fire crews arrived, they had to prioritise which fires to put out first.

‘‘The first crews on scene attacked the ones closer to structures and then they worked on the other ones which just burnt a bit of grass,’’ he said.

Although Vic Emergency’s Watch and Act message went out advising people to leave the area, Mr Cutting said nobody had to be evacuated.

He also reminded people that the fire danger risk period was still active and not to light fires.

‘‘People think summer is over, but there is still a risk of fire,’’ he said.

Police are now appealing to the public for information about who lit the fires.

‘‘If anyone saw anything out of the ordinary along Finlay Rd and John Allan Rd, could they please contact us,’’ Det Sgt Wickham said.

People can contact Echuca police on 5483 1558 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

- Ivy Jensen

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