VICTORIA, Australia (2/11/09)--Australian credit unions have set up a Bushfire Relief Fund to provide emergency relief to victims of devastating Australian bush fires, according to Abacus-Australian Mutual, Australia’s credit union trade association. The bushfires in Victoria have affected several credit unions and building societies (savings and loans) through their branch networks, staff and many of their more than 250,000 members in regional Victoria (Electronic News Publishing Feb. 9). Credit Union Foundation Australia is collecting donations, which are tax deductible and will be used to provide relief through the Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Police investigators said arsonists may have set some of Australia’s worst-ever wildfires, with the death toll reaching 173 as of Tuesday (Associated Press Feb. 10). About 400 fires have ravaged Victoria state, driven by 60 mph winds and temperatures as high as 117 degrees, the news service said. About 850 square miles were burned, according to the Victoria Country Fire Service.