A grassfire that threatened homes in Long Gully has been ruled suspicious.
Police are searching for the culprits who are believed to have deliberately lit the fire in scrub land in Comet Street about 10.15am Sunday.
The fire burnt through trees and an empty paddock filled with mine shafts, before it came close to jumping the road and reaching houses.
Bendigo CFA Station Officer Bryan Suckling said the fire was moments away from threatening homes.
“It's lucky we got on top of it when we did," he said.
"It could have easily jumped and spread further. The winds strengthened since we got there and if that had have happened a few minutes earlier it would have been extremely bad.”
Pat Campbell and her husband Syd Campbell first reported the fire after spotting smoke.
The couple live in Poulston Street – directly opposite to where the fire started.
“I was going to close the window and just saw smoke and a flicker of a flame on the road,” Mrs Campbell said.
“It was pure luck I happened to be looking out the window when I did.
“The flames got pretty high. Within a few minutes it was at the top of the trees. It was terrifying.”
Mr Campbell said he thought the fire was going to be more dangerous for Comet Street residents, where smoke billowed into houses.
“We were very worried,” he said.
“We were thinking the flames could have crossed the road but fortunately they never did.
“It could have been really bad, it could have gone down to the school (St Peter’s Catholic Primary school in Fenton Street)”
“The firefighters were doing a terrific job and the chopper did exactly what it was supposed to.”
Station Officer Suckling said the aircraft had successfully tackled the heart of the fire after reloading with water from Lake Weeroona three times.
He said he was concerned by the fact that it was suspicious.
"It's extremely frustrating to think that there are people out there who would think of lighting a fire on a day like this,” he said.
"It’s a day with extremely high potential for fire risk and that was well publicised. This has left houses, schools and public assets under threat, it's just unthinkable that someone would cause that deliberately."
DEPI and CFA put in a control line along Comet Street and continued blacking out until late Sunday afternoon.
Anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity in the area is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
CFA units are now on scene at a grass and scrub fire in Schumakers Lane, Maiden Gully.
Emergency alerts have been issued for residents in that area, and along the Calder Highway at Marong.
THE CFA says there is no threat to communities, but nearby residents should continue to stay informed and monitor conditions.
Smoke will be visible from nearby communities and roads.
10.20AM: The CFA is attending a grass and scrub fire in Long Gully.
CFA community education co-ordinator Paul Tangey confirmed they received the call at 10.07am.
"There is a fire in Long Gully. It is a bushfire that is spreading," he said.
"It has been determined as small.
"It is going and Bendigo station have turned out to attend."
More to come.