‘Do better’: Victoria Fire Chief pleads for public help in driest, busiest summer on record


From a string of arsons to fires accidentally set in parks, only halfway through the year, the Victoria Fire department is on pace for its busiest year yet.

“2023 inclusive is on pace to outdo any other year in history,” said Victoria Fire Chief Dan Atkinson.

Only mid-year, Victoria is already facing an unprecedented fire season. As a result, the fire service is sending out a frustrated plea for help from the public

“My message is do better,” said Atkinson. “We need to do better in our parks. This not only puts our public at risk it puts our firefighters at risk as well.”

Scorched earth is all that’s left Thursday morning after a bushfire blazed through Victoria’s Summit Park late Wednesday night. The midnight fire worried homeowners below that it may be heading their way.

“I’ve been watering madly just to keep the place wet,” said a woman who is housesitting a neighbouring house.

The difficult-to-access blaze was only stopped by three hours of hard work by Victoria firefighters.

“These fires can travel extremely fast. Within a matter of minutes, they can double in size, fast, no problem,” said Atkinson.

These are the worst summer conditions Victoria Fire has ever seen. But even with the unprecedented, dry conditions, people are still causing fires in Victoria parks.

Park fires aren’t Victoria Fire Department’s only task at hand. One or more arsonists are on the loose in Victoria who have been starting a series of suspicious fires in the Burnside neighbourhood the past month.

“The fires are concerning because we’ve seen some significant damage, they’re all concentrated in the same area, we can’t say if they are all the same person, but that’s something we’re looking into,” said Bowen Osoko, spokesperson for Victoria Police.

Ricky’s Restaurant was the first to be deliberately set on fire June 16. Seven days later, on June 23, just steps away from Ricky’s, another fire was deliberately set at a car rental agency. A week and a half after that on July 2 a heritage home, also just metres away, was also deliberately lit up.

Now, a car set on fire Tuesday July 11 is being added as the latest suspicious fire in the area.

“It has all the hallmarks of these numbers of files together,” said Osoko, “I think we can call it suspicious at this point.”

So far nobody has been charged in any of these fires and police aren’t saying publicly if a suspect or suspects have been identified. They do know though, that someone knows who set them and is asking them to come forward.

“It’s really important if someone has information to give us a call,” said Osoko.

Kori Sidaway

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