Chief Minister Andrew Barr has likened ongoing scrutiny of Defence's role in sparking the Orroral Valley blaze to a "witch hunt", after the release of photos taken moments after the fire's ignition triggered fresh public outrage.
Declaring the incident had "absolutely nothing to do with the ACT government", Mr Barr said an "endless circular blame game" would achieve nothing.
The comments came after Defence released photos of the Orroral Valley fire taken by crew onboard the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter which accidentally sparked the blaze, which went on to burn through 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park.
The photos show huge plumes of smoke coming from the fire, which began in an area of wide open grassland.
The release of the images to the ABC came two months after it was revealed the helicopter crew took 45 minutes to alert the ACT Emergency Services Agency to the location of a fire after it was sparked.
Defence has repeatedly defended its response, saying the priority was for its crew to return to safety after the helicopter was damaged.
Details about the location of the fire were passed on to ACT authorities immediately after the crew landed at Canberra Airport. Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan has previously stated she didn't blame any individual for the blaze and defended the actions of the crew.
The release of the images on Thursday has again put the spotlight on the crew's actions and prompted fresh outrage among Canberrans on social media.
But fronting reporters on Thursday morning, Mr Barr condemned the ongoing scrutiny of the incident, particularly from the media.
"This is not an urgent matter today, it will not be an urgent matter in one month, two months or six months," he said.
"There are lessons that can and will be learnt, but I'm not interested in witch hunts about Defence personnel.
"Yes, it was regrettable that the incident occurred. It was regrettable that they didn't call it in earlier. But what are we seeking to achieve in a witch hunt - absolutely nothing."
Asked if his response would be different if the ACT had of lost lives or homes in the Orroral Valley fire, Mr Barr doubled down, expressing frustration at "all these instant experts" who had expressed views on the incident.
"You can't undo it. It was an accident. I don't think it was deliberate and I just don't see the point in a witch hunt against a Defence pilot," he said.
"I wasn't on board, I don't know what happened and I can't possibly put myself in the circumstances of being responsible for a crew of people in that scenario.
"What happened was really, really unfortunate - but it was an accident. Accidents happen, we can learn from them but we are not going to do ourselves any service and undo anything that has happened by having this endless circular blame game. It doesn't achieve anything, nothing at all."
Mr Barr said his focus was on matters "directly" within ACT government's control, such as its coronavirus response, the vaccine rollout, and its climate action agenda.
"[I'm not] offering endless commentary on things that happened a year ago that have absolutely nothing to do with the ACT government."
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