Woman who started Tabulam fire sobs in radio interview
"ARE there days when I just break out crying? Abso-freaking-lutely. There are days when it just smashes me," Natasha Spiller said on ABC North Coast radio this morning.
On February 13 last year, she lit a fire in her yard at her home outside Tabulam to burn rubbish, something she did regularly.
What she didn't know was that it was a total fire ban.
Tabulam was dry as and on this windy day, after finishing the rubbish burn, she went inside to check her online assignments.
The ashes reignited and when she returned outside, the yard was black as the fire escaped. She called triple-0.
"There was fire everywhere," Ms Spiller said.
"It took hold real quick
"As the days passed and it just kept going, I thought, no this is not happening."
During the radio interview with Catherine Marciniak, Ms Spiller could be heard sobbing.
Her action that morning resulted in nine days of fire where 7500ha burned, 18 homes were lost and 49 outbuildings destroyed.
But the mother of eight hasn't shied away from what she has done.
"I remember just standing here and looking around and all I remember thinking, I've just got to apologise, I've just got to say sorry," she said.
"If they wanted to have a crack at me- to hit me or yell or scream at me, I totally deserved that."
Her neighbour Geraldine said to her: "You're the one that lit that fire? And I said yes and I thought she was going to uppercut me."
But she just gave me a massive hug, and said accidents happen, Ms Spiller said.
I was the idiot that did that and I was honestly gobsmacked (by my neighbours' reactions), she said.
Her neighbours Tim and Louise Doherty lost $150,000 of fences, pasture and equipment.
"She owned it and took responsibility. I couldn't believe how upfront she was," they said.
"She handed out donated goods."
Ms Spiller said one of her family's mottos are "own your sh-t."
She visited as many homes as she could to apologise.
One year on, her actions that day still haunt her.
"There are days when it smashes me and I don't get out of bed," she said in the radio interview.
Ms Spiller pleaded guilt to the charges of lighting a fire on a total fire ban day and was sentenced to an 18-month correction order and 100 hours of community service and contiues to reside in Tabulam.