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Vic: Police begin interviewing Marysville residents

By Simon Mossman
05 Mar 2009 2:26 PM

MARYSVILLE, Vic, March 5 AAP - Police are interviewing residents in the bushfire-devastated Victorian town of Marysville, hoping to establish the cause of the killer blaze which they fear may be the work of an arsonist.

Investigators on Thursday began collecting statements to build a better picture of events leading up to the firestorm that razed the pretty tourist town northeast of Melbourne.

Investigators are still working on the suspicion that the massive bushfire was deliberately started at the Murrindindi mill, near Yea.

Detective Inspector Steve White, of the Phoenix taskforce investigating the fire, said there was no evidence to indicate a separate fire had been deliberately lit near Marysville.

Det Insp White said the interview process was simply about gathering the facts from those caught up in the desperation of February 7.

"We're prioritising people who were here on the day, we're very keen to hear of their stories in relation to what they did, what they saw, the path of the fire, how long the firefront took to come through the town, where they evacuated to, what time they evacuated, what else they saw on the day," Det Insp White said.

"At this stage ... the fire that came through Marysville started at the mill and there were no other fires that joined that (main) fire."

Det Insp White said the interview process had only just begun because other key tasks had taken priority, including critical investigations around the main suspected ignition point at Murrindindi mill.

Police expect to take up to 400 statements from people who either fled Marysville or were out of town on the day of the deadly firestorms across Victoria, which have so far claimed 210 lives.

Det Insp White said the interview process was not about trying to determine who might have perished or who are still believed missing, saying investigators were confident they had accounted for everyone in Marysville and the surrounding "triangle" area including the townships of Buxton and Narbethong.

"We believe we have recovered who we are going to recover from the Marysville and triangle area. However, the coroner is working to make sure we search every property properly," he added.

"I suppose we'll learn a lot about the movement of the fire, how quickly it came, perhaps whether people had warning, whether people had fire plans ... a whole realm of questions hopefully will be answered as a result of these statements."

Resident David O'Sullivan, who lost several friends in the Black Saturday disaster, said he wouldn't speculate on assertions that a different deliberate fire destroyed Marysville.

"If it is, I'm sure they (authorities) would keep it to themselves because you don't want any stupid vigilante jobs," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"It was the hottest day, the windiest day ... maybe somebody did, maybe somebody didn't.

"I'd be angry, but what's done is done. Think about it, I'm upset that people are gone but anger's not going to bring them back."

Forty-five people have been confirmed dead in the Marysville fire.