NOTHING more could have been done to stop the Harrietville bushfire in which two firefighters died, says an official report released yesterday.
The report was written by Victorian Emergency Services Commissioner Michael Hallowes.
Last night the Harrietville Community Building Initiative committee met Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley to discuss the report, but secretary Terry Woolley said the meeting was not about pointing fingers.
“We were very pleased Mr Lapsley took up the offer to meet our group’s nine members,” he said.
“It indicates that the government take this matter seriously.
“Mr Lapsley said there was more work to be done and this was only the start.”
Mr Lapsley will return to Harrietville on June 5 to address the entire community at the town hall from 7.30pm.
Minister for Bushfire Response Kim Wells said he had asked fire chiefs to hold “relationship-building” meetings with local Country Fire Authority brigades, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Ovens Valley residents.
“From all the evidence presented to me in this report there is no information that shows more could have been done to prevent this fire from escaping,” Mr Wells said.
“Victoria’s firefighters do a fantastic job often in very difficult circumstances.
“It is important that our fire agencies all work together with their local communities to assist towards reducing bushfire risk.”
The Harrietville fire, sparked by lightning on January 21, burnt 37,000 hectares.
Firefighters Katie Peters, 19, of Tallandoon, and Steven Kadar, 34, of Corryong, died on February 13 when a tree fell on their vehicle while they were working on the blaze.
Locals had questioned the management of the fire after it was deemed under control, only for it to spot and then burn for another 55 days.
Mr Hallowes’ investigations found the fire had been managed appropriately.
The report said the fire had actually spotted over containment lines, “from one remote, steep and densely vegetated inaccessible area to another”.
Mr Hallowes called for better communication with the local residents.
He also recommended better record keeping so the public could assess key decisions made by officials during bushfire battles.
Member for Indi Sophie Mirabella said she was keen to digest the report and talk to local people.
“I am currently assessing the full contents of the report,” Mrs Mirabella said.
“I will be speaking with members of the Harrietville community before making further comment.
“I think credit needs to be given to the Victorian government for taking this matter seriously and compiling the report swiftly.”