Mattresses are being dumped and set alight at a pine plantation in Traralgon South in what police believe could be a plan by offenders to get their hands on a quick fix for scrap metal.
Three mattresses have been dumped and burnt at the HVP Plantations site off Cochranes Road in Traralgon South in the last two months as police this week launched an appeal to help find those responsible.
Latrobe Crime Investigation Detective Senior Constable Mick McNamara said the mattresses were dumped about four kilometres south of Mattingley Hill Road in a remote section of the planation – a few kilometres away from the nearest resident.
"On multiple occasions mattresses have been dumped in the same area beneath a section of trees just off to the edge of the road on Cochrane's Road," Detective Senior Constable McNamara said.
"They've been lit up and then the plume of smoke has been able to be seen from Traralgon South which is when residents are reporting it to the CFA.
"We suspect the mattresses are being burnt so that the person can access the metal beneath the mattress itself then they're using the metal to take to a scrap yard to sell and get money for the metal."
Illegal dumping has been a significant problem for HVP Plantations with the company spending more than $100,000 a year to remove rubbish and burnt-out vehicles from its 130,000 hectares of plantations in Gippsland.
"We have to throw resources at these fires. They have the potential of doing real damage to our plantations," HVP Plantations silviculture manager David Neave said.
"At this time of the year it's probably not as crucial as it is in the summer due to the cooler climate, however, it's costing us a lot of money.
"We're not doing patrols of the area but from what I understand these latest fires have been caused from dumped rubbish and mattresses in particular which can smoulder and burn for a long time."
Police are urging nearby residents and road users to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour – including vehicles not usually seen in the area.
"Any vehicles that are coming and going from this area and are unknown, local people should be jotting down registrations and reporting it to Crime Stoppers ... any suspicious activity out of the norm," Detective Senior Constable McNamara said.
"It is quite remote and there's not a lot of properties in this vicinity so we would appeal to anybody who's either travelling to work or the farmers – they would be familiar with vehicles who use these roads on a common basis.
"There's a high density of trees in this area so if the fire was to escape and take off the concern would be that it would get into the plantation and then threaten neighbouring communities."
Anyone in relation to the fires can phone Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit on 5131 5000 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.