The fires will henceforth be know as Black Saturday. On Saturday February 14, smoke from the fires was visible over New Zealand, more than two thousand kilometers off the east Victorian coast. The death toll currently stands at 201, with more than 500 people admitted to hospital with fire related injuries and over 7,500 people left homeless.
The Churchill fire has been confirmed as being intentionally lit, and police have charged a man with the crime. Brendan Sokaluk, a volunteer firefighter, is charged with one count of deadly arson and one of lighting a wildfire. He will also face court on an unrelated charge of possessing child pornography. The Churchill fire death tole stands at 21. He faces a maximum prison term of 40 years and will remain in solitary confinement for his own protection at least until his committal hearing on May 25.
To give an indication of just how responsible government is for these fires, fire services in Victoria have reported of waits a year long for approval to conduct controlled burning. In many cases, the volunteer rural fire services have given up seeking approval because they don't have the manpower to pursue the requests. There were even reports of waits up to three years long.
Every report into wildfire prevention since the 1930s has listed controlled burning as a necessity to avoid uncontrolled outbreak. They are typically followed by government initiatives that do not list controlled burning among the measures to be taken. This response has come from both major parties when in power (frequently put there by Green Party preferences
In one case, a couple living in a fire-prone area were fined $50,000 and faced a potential prison term for felling trees on their property without council approval. Their home is now the only building left standing within a 2km radius.