RFS gets boost from inquiry funding this bushfire season

·News Reporter
·4-min read

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is warning people across the state to not be complacent despite firefighters being better prepared than ever this bushfire season.

With an expected onslaught of summer heat this weekend, the RFS has warned of increased fire risk across large parts of NSW.

RFS deputy commissioner field operations Peter McKechnie told Yahoo News Australia that following the royal commission into the black summer bushfires of 2019/20, around half of the 76 recommendations from the inquiry had been fully implemented, putting the service in the best possible position to address any fire outbreak.

“Of the 76 recommendations from the Royal Commission we have completed just over 30 and many more are on track,” Mr McKechnie said.

Members of NSW Rural Fire Service assembled.
The RFS has more people on the ground and in the air to mitigate fire risk this summer. Source: Getty Images.

“Among these include increased aviation capabilities such as the dispatch aircraft at the same time as fire trucks on higher fire danger days in certain areas.

“We also have in the aviation fleet citation jets that scan the fires, leading the large airtanker in and then staying to provide fire mapping back to the fire control centre.

“We’ve also delivered modified training for our fire behaviour and extreme weather analysts and now provide the government and other agencies with a statement of what we can expect for the coming fire season.”

The black summer fires burnt an estimated 46 million acres or 186,000 square kilometres of bushland in 2019/20 and killed at least 34 people.

It was claimed around three billion animals were affected, driving some endangered species further toward extinction.

The NSW Government has allocated $460 million to firefighting capability across NSW in the two years following the disaster. 

Added to the RFS arsenal this season is a $28 million research and development funding boost, which will help to create over 100 priority fire trails across the state.

A new state-of-the-art aerial firefighting simulator at the Dubbo training academy has also helped the RFS hone its air capabilities.

It also employed around 100 extra bushfire mitigation personnel across NSW that inspect asset protection zones, which are fire buffer areas between bushland and properties.

Bushfire charity funds directed to firefighters' trust

The RFS has also benefited from the $51.3 million raised by comedian Celeste Barber following the black summer fires.

Despite an initial legal stoush over where the funds could actually be spent, a court ruling in May 2020 directed the funds to the NSW RFS Brigades and Donations Trust.

The funds raised have gone towards a $108 million kitty to improve equipment and resources for volunteers such as personal protective equipment, modern fire trucks, grants for local brigades to improve their stations and equipment to support local training facilities across the state.

Weekend conditions set to enflame fire danger

Mr McKechnie highlighted the northern and southern areas of the Riverina as particular areas of concern this weekend with extreme heat and high winds forecast.

“On the eastern seaboard things are greener than normal and our outlook is for a normal level of fire potential across the coast.

“But inland there’s been a lot of grass growth that we haven’t seen for decades, which will ultimately dry out over summer and become a problem for us.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 14: A burnt car on a vacant derelict property along Putty Road after devastating fires tore through areas near Colo Heights on November 14, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Bushfires from the Gospers Mountain bushfire continue to burn. An estimated million hectares of land has been burned by bushfire following catastrophic fire conditions - the highest possible level of bushfire danger. While conditions have eased, fire crews remain on high alert as dozens of bushfires continue to burn. A state of emergency was declared by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday 11 November and is still in effect, giving emergency powers to Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and prohibiting fires across the state. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
The black summer bushfires wiped out 46 million acres of bushland, destroyed nearly 6,000 buildings and cost 34 lives in 2019/20. Source: Getty Images.

“In Griffith and Hay, Deniliquin and the surrounding communities, we’re going to see temperatures in the 40s and 30-40km-an-hour winds with lower humidity increase fire risk this weekend.

“Despite the recent wet weather we don’t want people to be complacent.

“In the areas of risk we encourage residents and landowners to have a bushfire plan in place and if landowners are harvesting we ask them to pay attention to local conditions to make sure it is safe to do so."

The RFS encourages everyone in NSW to make a bushfire survival plan by visiting www.myfireplan.com.au.

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