Bendigo residents were urged to band together to prevent arson and report suspicious activity when the Crime Stoppers Anti-Bushfire Arson Roadshow visited the city yesterday.
The call came after a 16-year-old boy appeared in court on Monday charged with deliberately lighting a fire at Crusoe Reservoir in Kangaroo Flat.
He allegedly lit the fire last Friday, a day of total fire ban, but the blaze was quickly contained by fire crews.
Crime Stoppers chief executive Sam Hunter said 30 to 50 per cent of bush fires were deliberately lit and were therefore preventable.
“We are asking for the community to keep an eye out for suspicious activities,” she said.
“Put the Crime Stoppers number in your phone, download our iPhone app or make a report online.
“You can even take a picture on your phone and upload it to our website. It’s completely confidential.”
But while yesterday’s Crime Stoppers event was pitched as a “community roadshow”, only two residents attended and were outnumbered by local media.
Jan Wiener lives in Eppalock and said bush fires were a “huge concern” for her. “I’d like to know what to do if I see anything suspicious,” she said.
“I think it’s incredibly important people report anything suspicious they see.
“There’s no good outcome to fires, people can lose their homes, their lives and their livelihoods. It’s in everyone’s interest to work together and prevent this from happening.”
Ms Hunter said suspicious activity could include a car parked in bushland that’s not usually there, or a car regularly parked in the same area for no apparent reason.
“We believe in areas where people are on high alert, people are less likely to offend,” she said.
Senior Sergeant Craig Gaffee said any information, no matter how small, could prove invaluable.
“When small pieces are collated together they can paint the scene of what happened,” he said.
“We can’t be in all places all of the time so information from eye-witnesses is particularly important.”
CFA operations officer Craig Brittain said arsonists should not be tolerated by the community.
“We are very lucky we haven’t had any serious fires in Bendigo this fire season, but it’s not over yet,” he said. “The community need to take ownership of this.”
Suspicious activity can be reported to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Ms Hunter said Crime Stoppers collected information on behalf of the police and passed it on to the relevant area for them to act on.