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.
“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.
“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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