Black Tuesday report highlights CFS failings

Black Tuesday report highlights CFS failings 

20 December 2007

published by  

Australia — The State Government has come under fire in the findings of an SA inquest into the Eyre Peninsula bushfires that killed nine people in 2005.

Deputy state coroner Anthony Schapel found there were “serious deficiencies” in the CFS’s management of the Black Tuesday bushfires in January 2005. Mr Schapel delivered his findings on Tuesday, following a lengthy inquest into the Wangary fires.

Mr Schapel found the fires were started by a spark from the car exhaust of Port Lincoln man Marco Visic. He found the car and exhaust had “a number of irregularities and defects”.

However, it is his findings about the CFS’s management of the fire that has caused public controversy.

Mr Schapel said there were inadequate warnings to the public from CFS and resources such as water bombers were not made available on the first day of the fire.

“The fact of the matter was that no adequate measures were put in place or attempted which meant that opportunities to alter the outcome were not taken,” he said.

The State Government has said it will carefully consider the report.

“We hope that this brings this tragic chapter in SA’s history to a close,” acting premier Kevin Foley said. “At the time we reacted decisively and with a strong commitment immediately after the fires…and we will do the same now.”

Mr Foley and Mr Schapel both congratulated the CFS for improvements to its management systems following the fires.

However, Member for Flinders Liz Penfold has called for the resignation of former Minister for Emergency Services Pat Conlon over the findings.

While praising the efforts of CFS personnel and other volunteers, Mrs Penfold said it was the policy makers who must take the blame for Black Tuesday’s ‘mismanagement’.

The January 2005 Wangary bushfires burnt an estimated 77,000ha of farm and scrub land, destroying more than 90 homes, killing 46,000 head of stock, burning 6300km of fencing and 300 farm sheds and buildings.

In the aftermath of the blaze, Eyre Peninsula locals expressed anger that a water-bombing aircraft was sent to an Adelaide Hills fire before helping them.

Local residents also claimed the CFS did not take up an offer from a local crop duster to use his aircraft as a waterbomber when the fire started.

Mr Schapel’s inquiry had its first sitting in October, 2005 and heard from 140 witnesses during 233 days. More than 900 exhibits were tendered and 23,329 pages of transcript produced.

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