Police have identified several suspects believed to be behind nine suspicious blazes lit during the height of Victoria’s fire emergency.
At least 14 grass and scrub fires are being probed by arson squad detectives, who have so far found nine of those fires were deliberately lit.
The fires were started across the state on Sunday, from along the Great Ocean Road to near Bendigo, in the Latrobe Valley and in two spots in the Merri Creek in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay says police have suspects in a number of these fires.
“It is just so lucky that we haven’t got people who have lost their lives or been seriously injured as a result of these actions,” he said.
The cause of the five other fires being probed by police are not yet determined.
— ABC News (@abcnews) February 10, 2014
One of those fires, near Bendigo, burnt about seven hectares of grassland after starting about 500 metres north of the Calder Highway.
Police are trying to find a man seen in a dark blue BMW who had been telling everyone about the blaze.
He may know more about how it started, police say.
Fires close roads
Meanwhile hundreds of roads have been closed in Victoria, choking tourism as travel restrictions remain in place due to the bushfires.
Emergency services placed restrictions on road travel in bushfire areas while some regional train services east and north of Melbourne have been disrupted.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said hundreds of roads had been closed, mainly smaller roads but also some highways.
Major roads including the Strzelecki Highway, the Goulburn Valley Highway, the Northern Highway, the Princes Freeway and the Hyland Freeway have been affected.
“We are closing these roads on the advice of local fire services to protect people’s lives,” Mr Lay said on Monday.
— Laura Spurway (@laura_spurway) February 10, 2014
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley acknowledged the consequences of the travel restrictions on Victoria’s trade and tourism.
“Economics in Victoria is really important and tourism is part of that economic overlay.
Teen describes escape
Screaming with fear as fire roared towards his house, Jamie Conlon felt he had only one option – to run.
His car wouldn’t start, so the 18-year-old, who was home alone and wearing no shoes or shirt, sprinted down the driveway.
As fire ran through grass on either side of the dirt road in Warrandyte, Conlon thought he was going to die.
“I just saw the end and that’s where I was going,” he told AAP.
“I didn’t stop to look. I just sprinted.
“I thought I was dead.
“I was just screaming. I was terrified.”
Neighbours picked up Conlon and drove him to safety, but he assumed his house was gone.