By Gav Ross
ARSON detectives are investigating a blaze which destroyed a house in Cape Paterson on Monday afternoon.
Authorities were alerted the fire at Wheelers Road, close to the Cape Paterson Caravan Park, just after 5pm, with fire crews finding the single storey fibro shack completely engulfed by the time they arrived.
Wonthaggi Senior Sergeant Steve Gibson said firefighters did well to prevent the blaze from spreading to neighbouring properties.
“Bass Coast detectives have enlisted the assistance of specialist arson investigators to determine the cause of the fire,” Snr Sgt Gibson said yesterday (Tuesday).
Snr Sgt Gibson added that no arrests had been made in relation to the incident, despite several witnesses telling the Sentinel-Times that a man was seen being escorted away from the area in a police vehicle.
“There has been much public conjecture that a person was arrested, this is incorrect,” he stated.
“Detectives have spoken to many witnesses and will continue to canvas others in order to complete their investigation.”
Wonthaggi Fire Brigade captain Kim O’Connor said it was lucky the fire did not spread to dry scrub across the road.
“Given the right conditions, it could have escalated easily and have gone into the bush,” he said
“A tanker based at Cape Paterson was first at the scene and those guys did a good job protecting the house next door, which was very close to flames.”
Cpt O’Connor also said battling the blaze was made more difficult due to the age of the house destroyed.
“It was an old home and asbestos was an issue,” he said.
“It was clad with cement sheet internally, externally and even the roof was asbestos.”
He said appropriate breathing apparatus was used, but only a few firefighters were sent in close to the blaze since volunteers who come into close contact with the structure are required to send their gear away for special laundering.
Following the Wheeler Road fire and other reported blazes over the Christmas break, Snr Sgt Gibson urged the public to stay fire smart.
“At this time of the year, with dry fuel loads and weather conditions, we are all at risk from fire,” he said.
“I am appealing to the general community to assess the risks of any activity which has the capacity to generate fire – particularly on extreme fire danger days.
“As recently as Christmas Day, a small fire was started in Wimbledon Heights through the use of a barbecue.
“Luckily, no serious damage was caused.
“On Monday, a carelessly discarded cigarette butt from a vehicle ignited a roadside fire at Ryanston.
“Again, no property damage was caused.
“It is only with the assistance of the public, both in coming forward with information and being careful and vigilant that we can get through this fire season without a catastrophe.
“Please don’t use grinding or welding tools or cutting equipment on extreme days or in areas where a spark could catch hold.
“Also be careful pulling your vehicle onto a grass verge where there is dry vegetation.
“A hot motor, exhaust or converter is easily capable of igniting a fire in the right conditions.”