NSW Bushfire Inquiry says fire seasons "like 2019/20, or potentially worse, to happen again"

The NSW Bushfire Inquiry has found that more work needs to be done to prevent another bushfire disaster.

The inquiry was launched after devastating fires ripped through the state late last year and into the early months of 2020.

"The 2019/20 bushfire season was extreme, and extremely unusual," the report said.

"It showed us bushfires through forested regions on a scale that we have not seen in Australia in recorded history, and fire behaviour that took even experienced firefighters by surprise.

"The season showed us what damage megafires can do, and how dangerous they can be for communities and firefighters.

"And it is clear that we should expect fire seasons like 2019/20, or potentially worse, to happen again."

The report found that climate change "as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions clearly played a role in the conditions that led up to the fires and in the unrelenting conditions that supported the fires to spread".

However, the report said several other factors, including dryness, weather and difficult terrain, also contributed to the size of the fires.

The Green Wattle Creek bushfire damaged or destroyed more than 30 homes in Wollondilly earlier this year.

The report states that it was one of the largest and most damaging fires in the 2019/20 season, alongside the Gospers Mountain, Dunns Road, Badja and Currowan fires - all of which were started by lightning.

The Green Wattle Creek blaze burned 278,199 hectares of land and caused extensive damage across the shire including 15 homes destroyed and 16 homes damaged, eight facilities destroyed and three damaged, 66 outbuildings destroyed and 45 damaged.

More than 270 rural landholders were affected.

Two Horsley Park firefighters were also killed when their truck rolled over while fighting the blaze at Buxton.

Wollondilly Council's submission to the inquiry thanked the RFS Southern Highlands Team for their support and community information sessions in the lead up to and during the event.

"Significant numbers of residents attended these meetings and David Stimpson in particular should be congratulated for his clear and succinct style in communicating how to be prepared, what to expect and advice on how to respond," the submission stated.

"The RFS Southern Highlands team have a considerable area to cover and worked collaboratively with the council as much as possible in the preparation and planning for our fire seasons.

"They are an extremely small team and do an excellent job with the resources they have, we need more communicators and champions like David Stimson and Martin Surrey due to the size of the area."

The council's submission also highlighted the sheer size of the fire, climate impacts, loss of wildlife, planning issues and more.

The Inquiry heard that many people in fire affected communities had prepared a bush fire survival plan but were surprised by how extreme the fires were.

In a submission to the inquiry Wollombi Rural Fire Brigade Deputy CaptainGlen O'Rourke explained: "Many in the community do not have a realistic understanding of their bushfire risk and how to prepare for that risk for themselves, their families, their properties and their businesses."

The inquiry agreed with the view of Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre chief executive Richard Thornton, who stated on his blog that there needed to be a quantum shift in thinking and "to pursue the same path is tacitly to say that there is an acceptable number of deaths, injuries and property losses from bush fires in Australia each year."

The inquiry released 76 recommendations covering a range of issues including fire-fighting technology, improving communication, use of aircraft, inter-agency coordination, increased training for firefighters, government responsibility and more.

"More trucks and more firefighters are not the answer to the scale of the challenge NSW and Australia was confronted with during the 2019/20 bush fire season," the report said.

"Ideally, technology will be harnessed to minimise the risk to first responders.

"We need to grab what is becoming possible in terms of unmanned aircraft and vehicles, and think big about what will make fire fighting, and living in the community with fire, safer."