Two 'Suspicious' People Questioned in Australian Wildfire Probe

Australian police say they are questioning two people in connection with starting the weekend wildfires that killed 181 people, but declined to say if the suspects are in custody.

Local detectives responded to calls from the public who witnessed the pair acting suspiciously near Yea, which is about 12 miles north of Marysville, where officials say up to 100 people were killed in the blaze.

Police said the investigation is in its initial stages, with the two people assisting them with their inquiries.

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Earlier Wednesday, Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said arsonists could have been responsible for the fire that gutted Marysville — but said part of the concern about the blaze was that there is no explanation for how it started.

Nixon said police were prepared to lay a charge of murder by arson — with a 25-year jail penalty — against anyone believed to have caused one of the fatal bushfires.

She added that police had received reports that more fires have been deliberately lit since Saturday.

"We certainly have had reports of other fires being lit,'' Nixon told the Seven Network.

Click to watch video of the fires.

A nationwide fire alert system is currently being fast-tracked, after thousands of people were caught off-guard.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said a plan for a telephone fire alert system had been before the government since 2004, but that state governments had yet to endorse it. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government had "driven this issue hard" since it was elected in 2007, he said.

"Clearly a warning system would be useful," McClelland told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The Australian newspaper reported Thursday that privacy laws and bickering between states over funding had derailed plans to have such a system installed before the weekend blazes in Victoria state.

The bushfires death toll currently stands at 181, with expectations the final number will be much higher. So far, eight people have been confirmed killed in Marysville, but there are fears that figure could rise to up to 100.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.