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Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Australia is still recovering from bushfires destroyed. More than two thousand homes. Some of those homes may not be rebuilt. The government of one Australian state has historically offered to purchase empty. Lots where fire has destroyed homes. The goal is to help people moved to safer places but NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports that there was this crucial flaw in how that policy was rolled out. Donna Wilson late to cigarette and pollster truck out of the parking lot at the real estate firm. She manages in King Lake Victoria just bicycle idea from. Hey Ya damn houses. To houses went as in went up in flames on February seventh. Two thousand nine bushfire destroyed a huge chunk of this town. This whole straight pretty much weight. The flames moved so quickly that many people couldn't escape one hundred. Seventy three people died in a matter of hours most of them in and around king leak thousands of homes were destroyed three days later then. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd address the Australian parliament the seventh February. We become each national memory as a day of disaster of death and of morning. Black Saturday as it came to be called was Australia's most devastating modern bushfire event five times more deadly than the country's most recent fires and one of the questions that emerged afterward was whether all the houses that earned should be rebuilt. Maybe it was too dangerous. The solution was to try a set of policies. That would give people a choice. You can either build a new house. That was more fire resistant or sell your land to the government and move somewhere else. Wants land was sold to the government. Home could never be built on it again. It was an experiment. The assumption among policymakers was that the more traumatized a homeowner was by the fires. The more likely they would be to sell and relocate and Donna Wilson says to some extent that was true. It was a a godsend for little king. Lake is a small town. So Wilson knew a lot of the people who are coming into a real estate office after the fires and many of them were really struggling. Everything they owned was gone. Many of them had lost family or neighbors in the fire so selling their land to the government and preventing anyone from living there again was both simple and reassuring national. They couldn't deal with a all. They dislike that idea that no no build on that block. But as the so-called buyback scheme unfolded it became clear that it wasn't working for everyone. A key problem was the detained almost two years for the government to commit to it. And in the meantime people had already decided what to do even people who had nearly died in the fires last onto Kookaburra court. Then you will arrive at your destination on one hundred five degree day in February of this year. Npr producer Meredith. Rizzo and I drove the half hour from King Lake Down to flower gale. A town of about six hundred people surrounded by tree covered ridges. It's almost eleven years to the day since black Saturday. High joke the seventy year old Joe. Millburn takes us into his new living room. Which is right where his old living room used to be. In fact on black Saturday Joe was sitting right here reading when the power went out it was evening and I looked over the to the window between the Kurds and it was a red stripe and before sunset so when the front and the sky was read within an hour his entire neighborhood was on fire. He remembers trying to get to his neighbor's house for help. And I looked up and this is the only time I thought it was not die. The fight was about. It muscle he and his neighbors and their grandchildren piled into two cars and drove through the smoke and flames to an empty field. That had already burned. They watched as the fire devoured. The ridges. Joe's house was gone. His fire insurance policy provided enough to build a new house and he thought that was the only option available to him so less than a year after the fire he went for it outside the building by the time. Now it's going to do. The BUYBACK MISSED OUT AGAIN. Story my life by the time the government was ready to pay people like Joe for their land. He was already living in his new house. I wouldn't build this and in the decade. Since the forest has re grown the fire danger is high. Officials recognized that the delays in rolling out. The buyback offer made it difficult for many people to use it. Craig Lapsley was. Victoria's Fire Services Commissioner after the two thousand nine blazes leaks acution took forever and it was extremely frustrating. Make decisions so what did I do in the end? Most people who lost their homes on Black Saturday did not sell to the government and many people rebuilt houses in places with very high fire risk but Lapsley says he thinks that offering buybacks was a good idea especially when that option was coupled with more stringent building standards. Those are lessons that other parts of Australia and the US are looking to as they grapple with how to help people make safer decisions about where and how to live Rebecca Hersher NPR news.