National

COVID-19 could hamper emergency effort in next fire season

COVID-19 could hamper emergency effort in next fire season
Australia's firefighters need to start preparing for another devastating bushfire season dominated by the challenges presented by COVID-19, a royal commission into last summer's deadly blazes has been told.
NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Rob Rogers today said the nation's capacity to fight intense bushfires in the coming months could be hampered by the global pandemic and the need to isolate hundreds of firefighters who could be infectious on the frontline.
Firefighters praised in response report ahead of $20m funding boost
Both current NSW RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers and former commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons fronted the Royal Commission inquiry. (9News)
"I do think the country needs to have a self-sufficiency," he said.
The inquiry also heard that coronavirus limitations could drastically reduce the numbers of firefighters being transported from interstate, but also from overseas.
Former RFS chief Shane Fitzsimmons today fronted the royal commission to explain the fierce and frightening conditions the teams he oversaw were encountered with across the state.
Stacey Wilson from the Milton Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade at the bushfire front on Murramarang Road in Bawley Point on December 5, 2019. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong (Sitthixay Ditthavong)
The bushfire season wreaked immense damage across Australia. (9News)
Devastating blazes turned the skies above Australia's red a fierce red and blackened out entire suburbs. (Supplied/SBS)
"We saw fire behaviour at two, three or four in the morning – what you usually see at two, three or four in the afternoon," he said.
Looking ahead to the looming season, the nation's chiefs are now resorting to using a mobile phone app to better allocate and relocate crews state-to-state in future fire disasters.
"(It) also systems how to track how much they've worked over a given season to ensure we're better able to focus on their fatigue levels," Mr Rogers said.
It comes as large parts of the nation that were devastated by bushfires at the start of the year have been experiencing much cooler, rainier weather conditions this week compared to the dry and fire-prone weather that led into the last blaze season.