ARARAT - Four youths have been interviewed by police over a fire which destroyed part of the former Prestige Limited Mill site.
A 17 year old female and three males aged 15, 14 and 11 have been interviewed in relation to the fire, which forced elderly residents of Garden View Court to be moved to the other side of the facility due to concerns asbestos was in the blazing building.
Senior Detective Scott McKenzie from the Ararat Criminal Investigation Unit said it is alleged the four youths had gone to the old mill site, located in Lowe Street, at about 4pm on Saturday and walked through the buildings.
"Apparently one of them has lit a small piece of fabric as they left the building and then put the fabric out with their foot, believing it had been extinguished," Sen Det McKenzie said.
"It continued to smoulder and burn and ignited about 7.30pm Saturday night."
More than 80 Country Fire Authority fire fighters battled the blaze with crews from Ararat, Beaufort, Great Western, Stawell and Ballarat City attending. Moyston Brigade manned the Ararat Fire Station in the absence of the Ararat brigade.
A ladder platform, protective equipment van and forward command vehicle were also sent from Ballarat City to assist with the incident.
State Emergency Service personnel from Ararat also attended.
The fire burnt through the lower part of the building and then engulfed the entire top storey, which was full of timber flooring, causing the roof to collapse.
The fire burnt out of control for some time and District 16 operations officer Alfred Mason said it was the role of the fire fighters to stop the fire from spreading to the rest of the complex.
"We did an internal attack first but were forced out by the fire," he said.
While there were initial concerns there was asbestos in the building, and many buildings on the site do contain asbestos roofing, Mr Mason said the building destroyed had a metal roof and did not pose a danger.
Brigades left the scene at about midnight on Saturday, but returned on Sunday to douse timber which had continued to smoulder after concerns were raised by nearby residents.
Saturday's fire is the second in as many years at the former Prestige site.
A fire broke out at the site in February last year, believed to have been deliberately lit, but was contained to one corner of the building.