State News

Independent Bushfire Group: Time for radical rethink on bush firefighting

A new coalition of experienced fire experts has called on the NSW Government to make some fundamental changes in the way future bushfires are managed.

The Independent Bushfire Group (IBG), which includes 12 fire management veterans and researchers, with more than 400 years of fire experience between them, recommends measures including increasing capacity to rapidly address fires while they are small, and reviewing strategies used for fire suppression.

The group’s recommendations were put before the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry and published online today.

“It is clear that we are in uncharted territory for future fire seasons, and we need radical changes in the way we understand and fight fires in the era of climate change,” said Geoff Luscombe, IBG member and former incident controller, NSW Parks and Wildlife Service.

“In unprecedented hot and dry conditions, the best way to limit fire danger to firefighters, communities and the environment is to keep fires smaller. This means increasing our capacity to strike at fires much earlier.

“There must also be more resourcing for remote area firefighting, with more crews and equipment to do this specialised work,” said Mr Luscombe.

The IBG’s other recommendations include:

  • Reviewing the practice of backburning, which may no longer be as useful in unprecedented catastrophic conditions driven by climate change—and focusing on close containment strategies.
  • Developing professional firefighting resources to better support volunteers, with more Fire Strategists, Aviation Specialists, Divisional Commanders, etc.
  • More research into critical areas including fire behaviour prediction, fire suppression strategies, and the effectiveness of firefighting technology.

Greg Mullins, former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW and founder, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, welcomed the IBG’s recommendations.

“As climate change pushes Australia into uncharted bushfire danger territory, it is critical governments listen to the scientists calling for urgent emissions reduction, and the experts with decades of on-the-ground experience calling for a rethink of how we prepare for and respond to bushfires,” said Mr Mullins.

The Independent Bushfire Group’s report is available here.