FIREBALL: Wodonga chase before van set on fire | VIDEO, PICTURES

LARGE black plumes of smoke, loud explosions and a yellow glow led police to yet another burnt-out stolen car on the Border yesterday.

A tradesman became the latest victim of a spate of car thefts just after 5.30pm when a tattooed man in his 30s stole his van from the Elgin Boulevard work site in Wodonga.

The tradesman saw the thief, wearing a green T-shirt and blue baseball hat drive off in his black Hyundai iLoad work van and, with a couple of workmates, gave chase.

Just when they thought they had him cornered, he eluded them.

The next they knew, the thief had dumped and torched the van in scrub land off Sangsters Road.

Click on the video below to see the van ablaze. (iPhone users go to Video tab in Menu.)

Wodonga Detective Sgt Graeme Simpfendorfer said police were looking for a thinly built, 165-centimetre Caucasian man with tattoos on his arms and legs.

“We saturated the area with police trying to find him,” he said.

“We want anyone who has seen anyone matching that description to call police.”

The heat of the blaze sparked a one-hectare fire in an area close to many businesses.

Up to 50 CFA firefighters took about 30 minutes to contain the fire, burning near several businesses.

“The CFA has done a fantastic job to stop it from spreading to other streets and businesses,” Sgt Simpfendorfer said.
“It’s devastating for the owner.”

Sgt Simpfendorfer said police believed the man had intended to steal the van but had decided to burn the evidence once the tradesman saw him.

He said the incident was the latest in a long line of vehicles being stolen and burnt on the Border.

“We’re making considerable progress in solving some of them,” he said.
“We don’t believe they are all linked.”

Sgt Simpfendorfer said police were frustrated they had to repeat the message about the dangers of such behaviour.

“The person who has done this has no regard for people’s property,” he said.
“We’re lucky it wasn’t a high-risk day with damaging winds.
“Last Friday, it could have been devastating.”

Anyone with information is urged to call Wod­onga Police on 02 6049 2600 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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