SQUATTERS had lived in a Ballarat East house for several months before it was gutted by fire, police said.
Crime Investigation Unit’s Detective Senior Constable Steve Campbell said there was also evidence drugs had been used at the King Street South property.
And while the cause of the fire was yet to be determined, Detective Senior Constable Campbell said it might have been something as simple as a squatter lighting a candle.
“Power was connected to the property at the time ... there doesn’t appear to have been an electrical issue,” he said.
Police forensics had finished examining the house, however Detective Senior Constable Campbell said the results of the investigation could take several weeks.
He urged anyone near the old miners cottage when it went up in flames at 5pm on Thursday to contact Crime Stoppers.
Seven CFA units were called to control the fire.
CFA First Lieutenant Mark Cartledge said the aerial platform truck was also called in to remove shingles from the roof.
Neighbour Lisa Paliaga, who has lived near the house for 15 years, said the vacant cottage had been a magnet for vagrants and trouble in the area.
“I was waiting for the day it went up. Everyone in the neighbourhood was,” she said.
“It was always creating trouble in the neighbouring houses. We had things stolen from cars.”