Cause uncovered in Tathra bushfires


Some bushfire victims in the NSW south coast holiday village may have to wait 18 months for homes to be rebuilt.

Electrical infrastructure has been blamed for sparking the devastating Tathra bushfire, which destroyed almost 100 properties, leaving some those who lost their homes in limbo for at least a year.

The Rural Fire Service said in a statement on Thursday an electrical issue on Reedy Swamp Road, to the east of Bega, was the likely cause of Sunday's fire.

Despite the devastating fire, efforts are already underway to welcome Easter tourists and rebuild the local economy of the south coast hamlet.

Recovery coordinator Euan Ferguson praised the community for its tolerance of officials, who have declared the town safe and open for business.

But the former chief officer of Victoria's CFA says residents will be displaced for some time.

"We are not talking months. Generally, this is 12-18 months process at best," he told the ABC on Thursday.

"There will be some frustrations.

"We will see what we can do to fast-track (the rebuilding) and remove the red tape to make sure the needs of affected people are our foremost priority at all times."

A recovery centre opened at the Bega Civic Centre on Thursday to help victims with a range of services including disaster welfare, insurance, providing access to counsellors, shire planning and legal aid.

Mr Ferguson said other immediate priorities included supporting the town's businesses, planning the massive clean-up required, and ensuring the health and wellbeing of residents.

Some 166 people have been rehoused in temporary accommodation by Family and Community Services.

Hundreds more are staying with friends and family awaiting permission to return to their homes.

At latest count, 65 homes were destroyed along with 35 cabins and caravans.

A further 48 houses were damaged, while 810 were saved or untouched by the blaze.

The removal of asbestos in affected homes is expected to begin on Thursday and extend into next week.

The remainder of the clean-up in the town could take until the end of April.

The fire also exposed underlying tensions between the RFS and NSW Fire and Rescue.

The Fire Brigade Employees Union believes tension between the two agencies contributed to the loss of property.

The RFS says the offered help of a NSWFR urban pumper wouldn't have been suitable for the firefighting terrain, while the state's Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant said on Wednesday he was disgusted by the "union bastardry".

Source AAP

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