Published by Cobram Courier online and in print on February 20.

Police have not ruled out arson as a possible cause of the Wunghnu Complex fire, after identifying three separate ignition points and labelling two as suspicious.

Cobram Police Criminal Investigation Unit Detective Senior Constable Justin Schulze said police were appealing for witness accounts of the fire which burnt almost 10000ha in Numurkah, Wunghnu and Bunbartha on Sunday, February 9.

He said the first fire occurred about 1.50pm near the intersection of Goulburn Valley Hwy and Wunghnu East Rd and said the ignition point was believed to be between a train line and a residential property.

The second fire was believed to have started shortly after 3.30pm on Kaarima Rd between Reilleys Pit Rd and Central Mundboona Rd, Det Snr Const Schulze said.

He said police had not identified any suspects in the case and urged anyone in the area during the fires to contact police with information.

‘‘There have been a number of reports of suspicious activity but we haven’t identified anyone at actually lighting fires,’’ Det Snr Const Schulze said.

‘‘At this time, we’re just trying to speak to as many people as we can that were in the area at the time, and particularly between those times or at that time that might be able to assist us.

‘‘Especially if they have seen something and haven’t contacted police as yet.’’

However, Det Snr Const Schulze said police determined the fire which started on Shepparton-Barmah Rd in Bunbartha near Osbornes Rd about 3pm was caused by sparks from a faulty caravan wheel bearing.

Det Snr Const Schulze said the man and woman in the vehicle which was towing the caravan were lucky to escape unharmed, and warned others to check the condition of caravans and trailers before towing them.

The Wunghnu Complex fire is one of 14 suspicious fires being investigated by police throughout Victoria.

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

‘‘Bushfire arson has the capacity to injure, kill and destroy,’’ Dep Comm Cartwright 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.’’

●Anyone with information about the Wunghnu Complex fire should contact Cobram police or phone Crimestoppers on 1800333000.

AuthorToni Brient