'We expect deliberate fires': Nail Can residents

POLICE are refusing to rule out anything as they probe the cause of two New Year’s Day bushfires in Albury on Tuesday.

The blazes — on opposite sides of the city — were sparked within six hours of each other.

An early sweep of burnt bushland at both sites has not provided an obvious cause for the start of either fire.

Albury Detective-Sgt Peter Owen said police didn’t have the evidence to label the fires as suspicious.

“They don’t start for no reason,” Det-Sgt Owen said.

“We know that but it may have been by accident — it may also have criminality around it. We just don’t know.”

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For many residents on Nail Can Hill, however, there wasn’t any question that the blaze that threatened their home was the work of arsonists.

Yambla Avenue community fire unit team co-ordinator Peter Simpson said he and his neighbours were no strangers to suspicious fires.

“We’ve come to expect that fires around here are deliberately lit,” Mr Simpson said. 

“It’s very hard to do much about it.”

In East Albury, on Eastern Hill, a much smaller fire came within metres of a home on the corner of Bernhardt and Walsh streets.

The blaze was moving uphill but did not seriously threaten the house.

Wodonga teacher Ashlea Stockwell, who rents the house, said she was home when one of her neighbours had knocked on her door and told her that there was a fire on the hill.

“It makes you think what if someone else didn’t see it and we were in the house,” Ms Stockwell said.

“It’s concerning if people are starting fires because it’s really dry at the moment.

“There’s a lot of houses along this ridge.”

It is expected to be at least another two days until the results of a forensic examination by the Rural Fire Service and the NSW Police Forensic Services Group are finalised.

Police are appealing for anyone with information about the fires to contact Albury detectives on (02) 6023 9299 or Crime Stoppers.

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