Firebug suspected in blaze

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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 an empty paddock filled with mine shafts and came close to jumping the road and reaching houses.

Bendigo CFA Station Officer Bryan Suckling said the fire was moments away from burning homes.

“It's lucky we got on top of it when we did," he said.

"The winds had strengthened since we arrived and if that had have happened a few minutes earlier it would have been extremely bad.”

Pat Campbell and her husband Syd Campbell reported the fire after spotting smoke from their Poulston Street home – directly opposite 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 spread over to Comet Street after 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.

Long Gully homes threatened by fast-moving grassfire

“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 base of the fire after re-filling with water from Lake Weeroona three times.

He said he was concerned by the fact the fire was suspiciously lit.

"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.

"The way this fire has spread, it's put houses, schools and public assets under threat.

"It's just unthinkable that someone would cause that deliberately." 

It's just unthinkable that someone would cause that deliberately. - Bryan Suckling, CFA

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. 

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