Fears arsonist is on the loose in Gunnedah area

SENIOR firefighters say there may be a serial arsonist operating in the Gunnedah region after the seventh major house fire in six months.

In the latest incident, an unoccupied Department of Housing home sustained $200,000 of damage when it went up in flames on Thursday night.

The Wandobah Rd house had been rebuilt after serious damage from a fire 18 months previously.

Fire and Rescue NSW Gunnedah station commander Captain Rob Burns said the home was well alight when firefighters reached the scene, and it took two units half an hour to get it under control.

He said although the house was vacant, there was clothing and bedding in several of the property’s rooms, showing evidence of recent occupancy.

Captain Burns said he believed the source of the fire was deliberate, as the power was turned off in the home.

The blaze joins a number of incidents within the Hopedale Ave, Herbert St and Wandobah Rd areas, within a radius of one square kilometre.

Captain Burns said he believed the number of incidents in the area in which the fires occurred showed a pattern.

He said a month ago the brigade attended a house fire just six doors down from the home destroyed on Thursday.

On September 13 last year, a father and five children escaped a fire that seriously damaged their Herbert St home.

Wandobah Rd pensioner Toney Baldwin told The Namoi Valley Independent in December that he had witnessed four separate attacks on his timber cottage and utility since August 2012.

Mr Baldwin said the attacks occurred late at night and that the most recent incident in early December left him in fear of his life.

Hearing a loud “whoosh” outside of his home after he had retired for the night, he saw a bright glow outside his bedroom window and, on investigating, found the side of his house alight.

Captain Burns said although he couldn’t say whether the incidents were linked, he believed a firebug was at work.

“It’s just not normal. You might get one or two house fires a year, but we’ve had seven in six months,” he said.

“We’ve got a real problem here.”

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