In a press conference on Oct. 24, Air Marshal Mark Binskin finally apologized on behalf of the department as it acknowledged that military explosives training had started the State Mine Fire.
"I do apologize because it has been identified that this fire was the start of that Mine fire, but as I've said before, we'll wait until the New South Wales police do their investigation and then they come out with their reports for the coroner and then we can work on it then. I think there's far bigger priorities right now with the fire fighting that's going on out there," Binskin told media.
He cited the explosion occured about midday, "12 o'clock, very close to 12 o'clock" on Oct 16. The personnel, who were at the training site, had to wait for a 'small period' of time in order to carry out the assessment of the area. The personnel spotted a small fire and took responsibility to fight the fire. In about 30 minutes, Rural Fire Service were already alerted and had arrived in the area."
"So there - as I was told this morning when I was talking to those involved, it was 12:30 and the RFS was there. So that's very close timing and it shows that we do work closely with RFS, not just there but actually all the ranges around," he clarified.
"... what I do know to date is it was an explosives activity, it was a demolition activity in support of our people that train for operations around the world. It was about 23 degrees, light winds at the time they made the decision to do it. The fire scale was on the lower end of the scale and there wasn't a fire ban. But, when the activity occurred there was a small fire that started. They responded, we always have our own fire equipment on standby for this but it's quite difficult because it was in an area where there is ordnance, and within 30 minutes the Rural Fire Service were there as well."|
Despite causing the State Mine fire, Binskin stressed the military training was a very significant activity. He said the training aimed to develop the demolition technicians' skills necessary not just for work they do in Australia but in other parts of the world.
"It is significantly important. As I said, these are explosive demolition technicians, these are the people that go in defuse improvised explosive devices, and many of the instructors that were on this course have just come back from operations where they do that. So that's the significance of the training that they do, or they'll be out defusing unexploded ordnance, even ordnance that might be found from Second World War around the region. That's the sort of work that they do. So it is very important work that these technicians do not just around Australia but around the globe."
Regarding the issue that the Department of Defense had a lapse of judgment causing delay in extinguishing the fire, Binskin said the personnel and the RFS fire fighters had to prioritize their personal safety to perform their duties successfully.
"It was considered too dangerous to go onto the particular site where the fire had started to burn so they waited till it cleared that area and then started to fight it," he noted.
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