It’s going to be an interesting week in for both local and NSW politics once tonight’s Four Corners program on the 2003 bushfires goes to air.
“One of the paid staff of the RFS said: ‘Oh, it’s only s..t country, it’s burning pretty slow, why not let it burn’ and they all seized on that as a brilliant idea and that was the end of the meeting,” Mr Cathles tells ABC TV’s Four Corners in a program to be aired tonight.
“They actually decided by consensus to do nothing and I sort of lived with this a year or two and I ultimately wrote to the coroner, Maria Doogan, and told her this.”
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“I felt like, well, I lit the fire that burnt down Canberra,” [volunteer firefighter Hugh Patterson] told Four Corners.
“I was there with hundreds of other firefighters lighting backburns and you know, somewhere or other those fires grew to become the fires that swept into Canberra.
“It’s not a rational analysis of the history of the fire. But it is traumatic for me and it still weighs on my mind, as I guess a personal failure.”
These people on the ground felt like they failed, but surely they can take comfort in Jon Stanhope’s words immediately after the event (once the post-dinner party hangover had worn off): “If you want to blame someone, blame me.”