Fires in Echuca are cause for alarm, authorities say

By Lachlan Durling

POLICE and the CFA have become alarmed by deliberately lit fires – including a torched car – in the region.

In worse, hotter and windier, conditions even small grassfires can quickly get out of hand and both grassfires this week were close to homes.

The most recent outbreak was overnight Wednesday, which had CFA units being called out at 11pm and again at 5am Thursday.

Most concerning, according to CFA district 20 commander Michael Masters, all three were declared to be suspicious in nature after they were investigated by CFA fire investigators.

Mr Masters said two of the fires were in Echuca – the first at 11pm Wednesday was a grass fire reported at the corner of Maryann Rd and the Murray Valley Hwy.

“This fire burnt a small area of grass on the roadside, and had the potential to threaten a nearby house, as there was a strong wind in the area at the time the fire was lit,” Mr Masters said.

“The second fire, at 5am Thursday, was lit at the corner of Fehring Lane and Northern Hwy,” he said.

“It also burnt a small area of grass before being extinguished by crews from Echuca fire brigade.

“At the same time units had to be sent to the corner of John Allan Rd and Murray Valley Hwy where a white ute had also been set alight.”

The car in the photo was set fire to at the same time on the corner of John Allan Road and Murray Valley Hwy in Wyuna. All three fires are now the subject of police investigations.

Campaspe Crime Investigation Unit’s Detective Senior Constable Troy Wickham said the burnt car, a Mazda ute, had been reported stolen from Moama and had collided with a power pole about 4.30am.

“We believe the person, or persons, in the car then deliberately set it on fire and fled the scene,” he said.

“The first grassfire started in a drain but we have not yet determined the cause. The Northern Hwy fire was roadside grass between Fehring Lane and Echuca West School Rd and while the cause is undetermined it is believed to have been deliberately lit.”

Police are appealing for any witnesses to contact Echuca police station on 5483 1500 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.