Residents worried there’s a ‘lunatic on the loose’

YOU probably wouldn’t even notice it normally, but the residential streets that turn west off Billson Street in South Wonthaggi descend quickly into darkness at night, and usually a welcome quiet.
There are few street lights to beat back the gloom.
Nothing is moving, or should be moving, as the winter winds and rain whip through the area.
In keeping with a request from the authorities, many residents have left their back yard and front porch lights on well into the night, a clear indication of the level of concern that exists within the general population of the area.

But it does little to illuminate the dark areas between widely spaced street lights.

If there was some movement, you wouldn’t see it easily.
It’s here that one or more people are creeping through laneway shadows, silently scaling back fences or prowling around front yards, looking for something to light.
Understandably, residents remain on tenterhooks, wondering when and where the culprit will strike next.
One homeowner in the area, who requested to remain anonymous, said there’s a palpable sense of anxiety throughout the neighbourhood.
“People are definitely concerned there’s a lunatic on the loose,” they said.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen.
“If they’re lighting vacant old houses on fire, you don’t know what the next step will be.”
Local firefighters are also on constant alert in the current environment.
Many of the brigade volunteers at Saturday night’s annual fundraising night at the Wonthaggi Workmen’s Club had been called out the evening before when another deliberately lit fire was reported in Stewart Street.
Whilst attempting to have a good night, volunteers had their pagers charged and ready under their 80s-themed costumes, and they stayed off the booze during the evening just in case there was another emergency.
Social media is also playing a role in increasing awareness about the fires.
It’s believed posts were appearing on Facebook about last Friday’s fire before emergency services had even arrived at the scene, causing many residents to step warily out onto the footpath and look around, trying to pinpoint where the latest blaze had erupted.
Bass Coast’s Acting Police Inspector, Mark de Haan, said extra police have been patrolling the area on a nightly basis.
“We have increased patrols, both covert and overt, in that part of Wonthaggi,” he said.
“These (fires) are happening at night time between the hours of 10pm and 3am.
“We have additional night shift crews currently working throughout the week, targeting that area and surrounds.”