Arsonist lit nine fires in two hours

POLICE are hunting a firebug who deliberately lit nine fires 15 kilometres apart in less than two hours near Benalla on Sunday.

Benalla Detective Sgt Shannon Murphy said the fires, which ranged from five to 100 metres in diameter, had the potential for disaster.

“Considering the commitment this suspect has shown to starting the fires we have serious concerns there’s somebody out there doing this,” Sgt Murphy said.

“The potential for disaster was extreme.”

The fires were lit between the Jones Road camping ground towards the town of Tatong, about 30 kilometres south-east of Benalla.

“We’re just lucky the grass was slightly green and through the quick response from the CFA, every fire was put out basically immediately,” Sgt Murphy said.

The arson squad will help local detectives to identify a suspect.

Sgt Murphy said police have reviewed their database of people who carry convictions for arson offences.

“We’ve identified additional witnesses to the fires and in the coming days, through the interaction with the local community, we should be able to identify the suspect and the suspect’s vehicle,” he said.

He said more than six witnesses living in properties near where the fires were lit were helping police with their investigation.

He said one witness had given police closed-circuit television footage taken from their security cameras at their property of suspicious vehicles and people.

Sgt Murphy said fire- bugs were a concern for police every fire season.

“We do routine checks of them and meet with them on regular occasions during the fire season to reduce the potential they may have to cause harm to the community,” he said.