A bushfire in Tathra that wiped out 68 houses was likely caused by electrical infrastructure, the Rural Fire Service has announced after completing preliminary investigations.
“The investigation has found electrical infrastructure on Reedy Swamp Road as the likely cause of the fire,” the service said.
NSW Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant visited the south coast town on Thursday afternoon, a day after announcing an independent review into the response of emergency agencies.
The Fire Brigade Employees Union has said more homes could have been saved if the Rural Fire Services accepted initial offers of help by Fire and Rescue.
But Mr Grant on Thursday reiterated he had full confidence in the state’s firefighting agencies, and said he did not believe there was any infighting that delayed the response.
“I have absolute and full confidence in both the agencies, I’m enormously proud of them, and as I’m driving around today, they’re in the same truck together,” he said.
“This allegation of a turf war is absurd and it’s offensive.”
The minister said firefighters have told him directly they were disappointed the union “politicised the issue and pointed fingers”.
“I want to put that rumour [of a turf war] to bed,” he said.
When questioned why he was ordering a review if he did not believe there was infighting, he said it was important to ensure services were deployed in the most effective way.
“It’s incumbent on us as government to make sure that whenever our emergency services are deployed they are deployed in the optimum way,” he said.
“[I want to] make it crystal clear and make sure that the community have the confidence that when they call for fire support they will get it, and it won’t matter what badge is on the side of the truck.”
Let’s get this town open again, locals say
Carmen Risby from the Tathra beachside caravan park evacuated her team and over 200 guests via cars, foot and boat.
The park sustained fire damage to a few cabins but was otherwise spared.
“We’re busting our guts to get the town open for everyone,” she said.
“We’re everyday Aussies that work hard, that love what we do, that love our community and we want to share it with everyone when you visit.
“Every pair of hands that’s allowed in over the next few days are going to be busy so we can get our businesses and community open again.”
Ms Risby said she had staff who had lost their homes, so the last thing they needed was to lose their jobs too.
She emphasised the need to get guests back and staying at the park so they were spending money in the community.
“We need to move on and heal and there’s only one thing that can help us do that and that is people not cancelling,” she said.
“There are so many beautiful bits of Tathra left. One hundred per cent of Tathra was not damaged and the bits that didn’t burn remain incredibly beautiful and special.
“We will stay, we will fight, and we will be stronger together. But we need everyone around Australia to help us do that.”