Koroit chef turns firefighter to avert disaster 

AN agile chef averted a potential inferno yesterday in Koroit when he scale several fences with a kitchen fire extinguisher and doused flames believed to have been deliberately lit.

His quick response prevented the fire from taking hold of a disused shed which adjoins a Commercial Road restaurant complex and two houses shortly after 4pm yesterday.

Fire brigade members turned up a few minutes later to mop up and join police in initial investigations.

The alarm was first raised by a 50-year-old woman who lives nearby and was later treated by ambulance officers for slight smoke inhalation.

She rang Alex’s Restaurant and Pizza shop next door to report it, prompting chef Alex Hutabarat to jump into action.

After an initial inspection he told a work colleague to call the fire brigade, grabbed an extinguisher from the kitchen and put out the flames.

“The fire was small and was just starting to climb up the side of the shed.

“I had to jump over a few fences to get to it and turned the extinguisher on.”

Senior Constable Craig Tobias of Koroit police said it was fortunate Alex took action quickly and that the grass was green.

Koroit police last night reported that a female suspect was being interviewed over the fire. 

Also yesterday, a fire near the Great Ocean Road only two kilometres east of Port Campbell is also being treated as suspicious.

It was noticed by a local tourist helicopter pilot who raised the alarm, allowing CFA, DEPI and Parks Victoria crews to bring it under control quickly before it took hold in scrubland along Double Bay Track about 3pm.

“We were very lucky it was reported so soon because it had potential to spread quickly in the coastal vegetation,” incident controller David Rourke said.

Local police and a DEPI officer are investigating.

“If any members of the public have information that could assist they should ring the Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240667 or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000,” Mr Rourke said.

Meanwhile, crews breathed a collective sigh of relief after the large Stonyford fire was contained despite yesterday’s strong wind change which caused a partial road closure because of smoke. 

The fire, which started last week, is also believed to have been deliberate.

Mopping-up operations are continuing around the 600 hectares of rocky grassland burnt last week.

Almost 70 firefighters were still on scene yesterday but numbers will be scaled back. 

“They’ve done an amazing job. We’ll have patrols and monitoring continuing,” CFA regional duty officer Nick Brown said.

“The only property damage was a derelict house and some fencing. It’s difficult countryside — very tough on people and trucks.

“Some of the heat will continue in the ground till winter.”

The Cobden-Stonyford Road was closed yesterday afternoon between the Princes Highway and Ansons Road.

Closer to Warrnambool, four brigade crews were despatched to the Hopkins Highway at Purnim after several small fires were ignited by sparks from a trailer.

CFA incident controller Henry Barton said the jockey wheel on the trailer had mistakenly been left down.

“A passer-by pulled the driver up and told him about the sparks,” Mr Barton said.

“Fortunately the three small fires were in an area where there was a green tinge.”

Four crews also extinguished a few small spot fires near Koroit on Friday afternoon when arcing on powerpole cross-arm sent sparks falling to the ground on Nine Mile Creek Road.

“They pulled it up pretty quickly,” Mr Barton said.

Portland district crews also attended blazes on the Portland-Nelson Road near Mount Richmond and on Cockatoo Valley Road on the town’s outskirts. 

South-west firefighters have also formed strike teams to help control a large fire near Bendigo and other blazes around the state.

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