The red circle right indicates the location of the four house fires that were deliberately lit in Wonthaggi last Saturday night. A fortnight ago, another house was set alight in Dickson Street, and last year there were several other unexplained fires in the same area, including a house fire in Garden Street in January 2014 and a series of fires in Cape Paterson Road in February/March last year, including the destruction of a Coldon display home.
By Gav Ross
DETECTIVES are on the hunt for those responsible for four deliberately lit fires in south-east Wonthaggi late on Saturday night.
One vacant house on Broome Crescent was left completely gutted, with firefighters tackling the blaze for half an hour before it was brought under control.
Between 11.30pm and 1am, CFA volunteers put out three other fires in the immediate area.
One of those blazes destroyed a car port and its contents at a Reed Crescent property, while another was lit in the rear shed of a vacant house in Merrin Crescent.
The fourth, far smaller fire of the night was reported at another Broome Crescent property, where police say an offender lit a fire on a front porch, causing minor damage.
Detective Senior Constable Liza Burrows from Bass Coast Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) confirmed not all the houses targeted on Saturday were vacant.
“There were multiple occupants asleep in the house at Reed Crescent and there was one person inside the Broome Crescent house where a fire was lit on the porch,” Det Burrows said.
Investigators believe, however, that whoever started the fire on the porch may have believed the home was empty.
Detective Senior Constable Liza Burrows said the home “looked vacant” with a ‘For Sale’ sign out the front.
Detectives are now investigating links between Saturday night’s fires and two other incidents at nearby Dickson Street, which occurred just eight days earlier.
On the morning of February 17, one vacant house at the edge of a laneway in Dickson Street was gutted and almost collapsed, while a ride-on lawnmower stored at the rear of a neighbouring property was also set alight.
Det Burrows said that in all incidents, the offenders have used “whatever they can get their hands on” at the scene to start each fire.
She confirmed no accelerants had been used.
The recent fires are similar in nature to other suspicious blazes in that part of Wonthaggi over a year ago, including multiple fires at the Coldon Homes site.
However, Det Burrows said linking the 2014 fires to what has occurred in the past eight days is “too long a bow to draw” due to details in witness accounts.
Det Burrows added that those responsible for Saturday’s fires appeared to be “opportunistic” but weren’t targeting anyone, although she did warn owners of vacant homes to stay alert.
Forensic chemists processed the four crime scenes early on Sunday morning and local officers were analysing the scene again yesterday (Monday).
Police are still looking for suspects and hope the public can be of assistance.
Anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area on Saturday night is urged to contact Wonthaggi Police on 5671 4100 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Det Burrows said there will be a heightened police presence in the streets affected in coming weeks.