A FIRE that tore through 450 hectares near Cobden has been officially declared suspicious.
CFA and Department Of Environment and Primary Industries investigators and Warrnambool police crime investigation unit detectives examined the fire scene yesterday to try to determine a cause.
Detective Acting Sergeant Colin Ryan said the fire was believed to have started in at least three places just to the west of Scoullers Road, off the Cobden-Stonyford Road near Stonyford.
“It is unknown how the fires started. There’s nothing to confirm it was deliberately lit but the cause of the fire is definitely suspicious,” he said.
“We looked at one site late last night and the CFA investigator described it as highly likely as one of the seats of the fire,” he said.
“While the cause of the fire is suspicious, at this stage we do not know how it started. Whether it was deliberate or some other unknown means we are unsure as yet.”
Detective Acting Sergeant Ryan said the fire started about 2.40pm and he called for any witnesses who saw anything unusual in that area, or a vehicle, to contact the Warrnambool police station, CIU or Crime Stoppers.
More than 30 CFA units and a number of aircraft attacked the fire that was swept along by strong south-east winds.
The fire has blackened about 450 hectares of farmland near the Cobden-Stoneyford Road and was last night still burning in rocky terrain.
At one stage it threatened three houses near the corner of Scoullers Road and the Cobden-Stonyford Road.
Small pockets of land were still burning yesterday and crews were strengthening established containment lines. That work was expected to continue overnight and into today.
A CFA spokesman said there was no threat to communities, but residents should continue to stay informed and monitor conditions.
“Smoke will be visible from nearby communities and roads. Please travel to the local conditions and with headlights on,” he said.
Speed reductions have been imposed at the Cobden-Stonyford Road juncture with Ansons and Koallah roads because of the smoke. The CFA advised people to avoid those areas if possible.