Police launch fire campaign

THREE fires in Wellington Shire over the past week are among 14 Victoria Police have labelled as suspicious.

Victorians have seen homes, animals and crops lost in the 432 fires that have raged across the state since last Thursday.

Police are investigating suspicious fires on the South Gippsland Highway at Sale, King and Powerscourt Sts, Maffra, and Egans Rd, Jack River.

Police are also looking into blazes on the Strzelecki Highway at Driffield, O’Hara’s Rd, Yinnar and Old Jindivick, Drouin West.

This week, radio and print advertisements will be urging the public to report any suspicious behaviour to 000 and Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

This campaign will compliment existing Victoria Police bushfire arson initiatives, including the annual Operation Firesetter and specially trained Bushfire Arson Liaison Officers who are embedded across the state.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright reiterated bushfire arson was a serious crime and all suspicious fires would be rigorously investigated.

“Bushfire arson has the capacity to injure, kill and destroy,” he said.

“Victoria Police will be looking into all fires that are deemed suspicious and anyone found guilty of deliberately lighting a bushfire will face serious penalties, the most severe of which can be 25 years in jail.”

During a recent visit to the Regional Control Centre in Traralgon, Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan described people deliberately lighting fires as a “true animal act” and a “stupid irresponsible thing”.

“The police are investigating it and we would hope that those responsible are apprehended and dealt with the full force of the law,” he said.

Anyone with information on suspicious behaviour or a person who you feel may be linked to bushfire arson should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Anyone requiring police immediately should phone 000.