The two men responsible for accidentally starting the devastating Carwoola bushfires in February were convicted and fined for their actions in Queanbeyan Local Court on Friday.
Shannon Lyndsey Orford, 39, of Evatt, and Harrison William Elliott, 21, of Giralang, pleaded guilty to one count each of failing to follow a total fire ban. Both men had charges of setting fire to the property of another withdrawn in a plea deal.
At the time of the fire Orford was employed as a civil foreman on the Brindabella Place property and Elliott was employed as a labourer reporting to Orford.
Court documents state the men were constructing footings on the property, which involved cutting metal grates with power tools.
A total fire ban had been declared on February 17 and while it did not expressly forbid the use of power tools in necessary circumstances there were strict guidelines about not allowing sparks to escape.
The court heard Orford had dug a trench free from vegetation to capture any sparks emitted and cutting had occurred throughout the day without incident.
However Orford later asked Elliott to complete a cut, which resulted in sparks flying towards Orford. He told Elliott to point the tool in the opposite direction which allowed sparks to fly into grassland igniting the fire.
Orford, Elliot and other workers on the site then began trying to contain the fire using earthmoving equipment and water, however the fire was unable to be contained.
In his original statement to police Orford took full responsibility for the fire and did not disclose that Elliott had used the tool fearing the impact it would have on his young employee. The two men eventually amended their statements to include Elliott's involvement.
The police prosecutor acknowledged the men's remorse but said the severity of the damage and impact on the community required a punishment that would act as deterrence and reiterate the importance of following fire bans.
Elliott's defence lawyer submitted screen shots of the Carwoola Community Facebook page to the court which showed many messages of support and forgiveness for the two men.
Magistrate Michael Antrum described the Carwoola community as "understanding and practical" and said it was clear the fire was an accident.
"The plea of guilty signifies remorse on your behalf which is more important to the Carwoola community," Magistrate Antrum said.
"I accept your remorse is genuine and sincere, that much is clear.
"I sense the sting of the community's loss is greater than anything this court could impose."
He agreed however the punishment needed to reflect the seriousness of the consequences and act as appropriate deterrence.
Elliott was fined $2100 while Orford was fined $3200 as he was the more senior worker on the site and responsible for safety precautions.
The Carwoola bushfire destroyed more than 3000 hectares of land and eight homes. More than 30 animals were killed including six alpacas.