Firefighters appauled parliamentry inquiry hears

Firefighters ‘appalled’ by Coonabarabran bushfire management, parliamentary inquiry hears

Bushfire aftermath in CoonabarabranThe National Parks and Wildlife Service should be stripped of its firefighting responsibilities, a volunteer firefighters group has told a parliamentary inquiry.

An Upper House committee is investigating the response to the bushfire in the Warrumbungle National Park in January last year, which burned more than 90 per cent of the park, destroyed 53 homes and killed hundreds of livestock.

Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) president Peter Cannon told the inquiry he was “absolutely appalled at how it was managed”, saying the command structure did not work.

“We’re all basically being trained in what is required and it is a complete failure in my eyes on this fire,” he said.

Mr Cannon was asked if a single organisation should be responsible for firefighting in New South Wales.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS), NPWS and the Forestry Corporation of NSW currently share responsibility for firefighting.

“Firefighting authority should be removed from National Parks because they are not firefighters,” Mr Cannon said.

VFFA vice-president Brian Williams gave evidence about the communication between the RFS and landholders.

Coonabarabran bushfire

He said many RFS group captains in the Coonabarabran area were not initially told a fire had broken out.

“We need more local expertise to come in and assist and they would have jumped at the chance but they were out of it; they were out of the loop,” Mr Williams said.

Earlier, former silviculturist Vic Jurskis gave evidence about how parks and land should be managed to prevent major bushfires.

He said the Coonabarabran disaster showed what would happen if NPWS did not carry out fire prevention work.

“It’s not just that area. It’s any area that if you don’t graze it and/or burn the country it’ll turn into scrub, it’ll turn into a time-bomb and one day it will explode,” Mr Jurskis said.

He said he would like to see regulations simplified to facilitate rather than prevent hazard reduction.

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