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Fire victims call for $40m compensation

Mark Fosdick from the National parks wildlife service area manager.

Aftermath: Mark Fosdick at Coonabarabran. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

A group of Coonabarabran property owners has written to Premier Barry O'Farrell seeking compensation put at $40 million after the Black Sunday bushfires in January left the region devastated.

The group claims that government agencies failed to extinguish, and later contain, a fire in the Warrumbungle National Park which later engulfed their properties.

Further, the letter says that the agencies undertook backburning operations despite 100km/h winds and temperatures of up to 46 degrees forecast for the next day.

Volunteer firefighters Captain Chris Lowrie and his father Gordon. Both were on the Coonabarabran fireground in January 2013.Click for more photos

Plume of despair

Volunteer firefighters Captain Chris Lowrie and his father Gordon. Both were on the Coonabarabran fireground in January 2013. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

  • Volunteer firefighters Captain Chris Lowrie and his father Gordon. Both were on the Coonabarabran fireground in January 2013.
  • Sue Brookhouse with the recovered Koalas who were injured in the Coonabarabran fires.
  • Mark Fosdick, National Parks and Wildlife Service area manager.
  • John and Jan Shobbrock lost their home and possessions in the Coonabarabran fires.
  • Campers return to Warrumbungles.
  • Stephen Lill's prized bull Valentino was injured and hasn't fully recovered.
  • RFS volunteer Proctor Morris was on the Coonabarabran fireground on January 13 2013.
  • Coonabarabran five months on.
  • Coonabarabran five months on.
  • Coonabarabran five months on.
  • Coonabarabran five months on.
  • Coonabarabran five months on.
  • Coonabarabran five months on.

Up to 93 per cent of the Warrumbungle National Park was burnt in the fire, killing a vast amount of wildlife, including koalas and reintroduced brush-tailed rock wallabies.

Peter Cannon, Volunteer Fire Fighters Association president, writing in the organisation's latest issue of its magazine says: ''The money now needed to repair all the damage could have been used to build a new hospital or other asset for the town, the whole situation defies belief.

''The overall cost of this fire has been massive and at the end of the day, what have they got to show for it? Around 80 per cent of the park has been burnt out and many homes and personal possessions lost.''

He says that the fire should not have run any more than ''a couple of days'' if a prevention management package designed for National Parks, Crown Land and private land called the Canobolas model had been implemented. ''Some are trying to bury this preventative model for what reason other than to have a reactionary fire service, which the taxpayer is paying for,'' he said.

Stud farm owner Stephen Lill, who lost 200 stock, said a precedent had been set when an out-of-court settlement was made for a bushfire some years ago. ''We believe there is a clear pathway for this government to act decently and honourably and provide some fair and just compensation for those that have sustained losses. Let's save some of the lawyers fees and sit down and talk this through like sensible people. None of the property owners that are involved in the alliance are seeking vengeance or retribution, they just want some compensation for the real losses they have incurred.

''If we are forced down the other route, I would imagine that settlement in five years' time would be four or five times more than we are asking now.''

National Parks area manager Mark Fosdick told Fairfax Media that they stood by decisions made at the time and that condemnation of their action was from those who weren't there.

In a May 29 letter to the property alliance Mr O'Farrell wrote: 'The circumstances of the Wambelong fire are the subject of a police investigation on behalf of the coroner and so, as you would understand, it is not appropriate to anticipate the outcome of those proceedings.'

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Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/fire-victims-call-for-40m-compensation-20130608-2nwoj.html#ixzz2yMIpRjUA
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