Victorians who lost homes and property as the result of a planned burn that went awry will get compensation.
An “angry” Premier Daniel Andrews said an independent review would get to the bottom of how the planned burn was allowed to turn into a destructive bushfire.
“If there’s compensation that needs to be paid – it will be paid. I probably can’t be any clearer than that,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Thursday.
Two houses have been confirmed destroyed so far in the Lancefield fire, which developed into an out-of-control bushfire on Tuesday after escaping containment lines over the weekend.
Furious residents demanded answers at a community meeting on Wednesday and the Premier promised they would get them.
“They’re right to be angry,” he said.
“I’m angry too. I don’t understand how this has happened, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
The investigation will be led by the director of Western Australia’s Office of Bushfire Risk Management (OBRM), Murray Carter, who will examine all aspects of the planned burn, including its timing, communication with the community and the factors involved in it getting out of control.
The investigation team will also seek advice from members of the Lancefield community, to ensure landowners have the opportunity to share their concerns.
The Lancefield planned burn undertaken by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) escaped containment lines on October 3.
It was brought under control by DELWP and CFA firefighters during the next two days, but flared up again as a result of the hot, windy conditions experienced across Victoria on October 6.
The investigation will commence next week and all findings will be made public.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government had to answer questions about whether enough staff were watching the fire when it escaped containment lines on AFL grand final Saturday.
Emergency warnings have been downgraded to “watch and act” for the 4000-hectare bushfire near Lancefield that was threatening the Benloch area on Thursday morning.
The Country Fire Authority downgraded the blaze shortly before 9am, but it is still not under control.
Residents in Baynton, Baynton East, Benloch, Emu Flat, Nulla Vale, Pastoria, Pastoria East and Sidonia are still being warned to be vigilant.
Another community meeting will be held in Lancefield on Thursday evening.