Fire Chief In Australia Brands Wildfire Survivors As Ungrateful

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) -- A fire brigade chief called survivors of Australia's deadliest wildfires in two decades ungrateful Sunday after a report that some were considering legal action against firefighters.

Euan Ferguson, chief officer of the Country Fire Service, said it was premature to blame his firefighters after blazes left nine dead and injured 113 Tuesday on South Australia state's Eyre Peninsula, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of the state capital, Adelaide.

As they grieve for the dead, residents have expressed anger that water-bombing aircraft were sent to a fire near Adelaide on Tuesday before them.

``I don't think there's any basis for any legal action,'' Ferguson said. ``It's very premature for people to be laying blame at the feet of those who give their lives and risk their lives every day for the community.''

``I think it's completely inappropriate and I'm starting to feel that people are being a little bit ungrateful,'' he added.

An Eyre Peninsula businessman has gathered the names of some fire victims and contacted an Adelaide lawyer about starting a class action suit against the fire service, Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported. It did not identify the man.

``I'm satisfied that our response was appropriate,'' Ferguson said. ``We could have had every firefighting appliance and every firefighter in South Australia and it still wouldn't have stopped that fire occurring.''

Residents suspect the fire was started by a tourist who stopped his car in a field, where his hot exhaust pipe ignited long, dry grass.

The Eyre Peninsula blaze was the worst wildfire to hit Australia since 1983, when blazes dubbed the Ash Wednesday fires left 75 people dead in South Australia and neighboring Victoria state.