Discussion and conclusions
Based on the evidence, the Board concludes that the Hazelwood mine fire was caused by embers spotting into the mine. There is no evidence to suggest that the Hazelwood mine fire started from a source inside the mine, either in the operating area or from an existing fire hole.
It seems more likely that the spotting was caused by the Hernes Oak fire and possibly from the Driffield fire.
The Board accepts the opinion of Mr Lapsley regarding the cause of the mine fire given that there is strong support for it in the evidence and that there is no evidence to the contrary.
Under its Terms of Reference, the Board has been directed not to prejudice any investigation by Victoria Police. Accordingly, the Board does not reach any conclusions about the causes of the Hernes Oak-McDonald’s Track, Hernes Oak and Driffield fires.
The Board acknowledges that appropriate warnings were made in the lead up to 9 February 2014 about the potential risk of a catastrophic fire event occurring. However, warnings are only a short-term solution. In the long-term the emphasis needs to be on education based on past experience. Education is particularly important for those Victorians living in areas most vulnerable to bushfire.
While no two fires are the same, parallels can be drawn between the cause, course and consequences of fires. It is imperative that we learn from fire events, and that Victorians are educated about the threat of fire and how to improve preparation measures for the future.