The people who lit the fires are immediately responsible. But a measure of responsibility also lies with environmental activists who pressured local councils and other governement agencies to reduce or disallow prescribed (that is controlled protective) burning and other clearing of highly flammable scrub from residential areas. 

‘The green movement is directly responsible for the severity of these fires through their opposition to prescribed burning,’ said David Packham, former supervising meteorologist for fire weather nationwide at the Bureau of Meteorology.

At a community meeting in Victoria yesterday, Warwick Spooner, whose mother and brother were killed in the fires, told council members ‘We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down.’

Meanwhile, another family who disobeyed government regulations, cleared bush from around their home, and were fined $50,000 for doing so, said that their home and lives were saved because of the action they had taken – action which is simply reponsible in high fire risk areas.

The argument is that clearing of bush around residential areas reduces bio-diversity and increases the risk of extinctions of native animals through loss of habitat. This is nonsense. The areas cleared in prescribed burning are very small – just enough to prevent fires jumping to buildings. The real risk to native wildlife is massive uncontrolled fires like those which have just occurred.