On the arsonist’s trail: inside Australia’s worst bushfire catastrophe

One day in 2009, fires swept across Victoria, leaving 173 dead. It became known as Black Saturday. When it emerged that not all of these disasters were natural, local detectives sprang into action. By Chloe Hooper

The patient had been in a coma for 12 days. Strange dreams were all he could remember. He dreamed he was in a red room, then a green room, and when, finally, he woke, the walls were orange. There was flame even in the paint colour, and he knew without being told that his wife was dead. He checked his hands and was surprised to find that his fingers – put back together now, bandaged – had been saved.

His children sat next to his bed while a young police officer had positioned his chair further away, towards the back of the hospital room. All of them were waiting to hear what had happened to him two weeks earlier, on the day of Australia’s worst recorded natural disaster. It would become known as Black Saturday: 400 separate fires had burned across the southern Australian state of Victoria, giving off as much energy as 1,500 atomic bombs.

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Read more: theguardian.com

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