RESIDENTS in Ballarat’s West are afraid a firebug is stalking the area after two separate fires within minutes of each other yesterday, both of which came dangerously close to houses.
There have been five suspicious fires near Alfredton this month, all of which are suspected to have been deliberately lit.
Fire crews rushed to two blazes just after 2.30pm yesterday, one in a vacant paddock on Cuthberts Road in Alfredton and another on Remembrance Drive at Cardigan.
They were both brought under control after swift action from CFA firefighters, but threatened to escalate under strong north-westerly winds.
Cardigan resident Katrina Fitzpatrick, whose home came within metres of being engulfed in flame said she now lived in fear, given the spate of fires that had started in the area recently.
Mrs Fitzpatrick trains harness racing horses on her property with her husband, Darren.
She managed to free the horses from the burning paddock with the help of a stranger who was driving past the house at the time, and who also woke her up to raise the alarm.
“It really makes you uncomfortable thinking that someone is going around doing this on purpose, it really does,” said Mrs Fitzpatrick, who was also treated for smoke inhalation.
“If it started 20 metres on the other side of the house we wouldn’t have a home any more.
“The firemen were just unbelievable though. Their response was fantastic. They were here so quick, I really can’t thank them enough.”
The first man on the scene, Charles Falzon from Brewster, said he was driving home when he saw a plume of smoke erupt into flames.
He pulled off the side of the road immediately and rushed to the nearby house.
“I had to. There was no way I could just keep driving,” he said.
“I was knocking flat out at the door. She (Mrs Fitzpatrick) took a while, but she came out in the end.
“If this is arson like everybody is saying, then you just can’t understand it.”
Power was cut across much of Alfredton yesterday, with Powercor hoping to restore it by 9.30pm yesterday.