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Mt Wilson, Mt Tomah & Berambing Communities need the NSW RFS to implement the NSW Bushfire Inquiry 2020 recommendations.

Our problem

The NSW RFS response to recommendations from NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry (2020) are insufficient to prevent us from being burnt out by an escaped RFS backburn again. We need the RFS to strengthen their response to Recommendations 47 (c) and to implement Recommendation 47 (d) of the Bushfire Inquiry.

Background Information

On 14 December 2019 the RFS lit a backburn at Mt Wilson that escaped and burnt out the villages of Mt Wilson, Tomah and Berambing on 15 December. This fire continued to burn for another 53 days destroying homes at Bilpin, Kurrajong Heights, Bell, and Blackheath and threaten thousands more in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains Local Government Areas and devastated 63,700 hectares of World Heritage National Park while blanketing the Sydney basin with smoke for weeks.


source: Jochen Spencer

Current Situation

The NSW Bushfire Inquiry (2020) Recommendation 47 (c) describes that before lighting a strategic backburn in adverse weather conditions, an independent review must be undertaken at State Operations Level. The RFS have responded with the document NSW Rural Fire Service OP 1.2.20 Operational Protocol for Backburning 2021. This document does not sufficiently safeguard our communities from being burnt out by future strategic RFS backburns.

  • It does not require that the RFS advise communities of risks to the public associated with conducting strategic backburns – either before the backburn or if the backburn escapes.

  • The document does not contain a requirement that a risk analysis be done before lighting a backburn.

  • It does not require that the strategy will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts.

The NSW Bushfire Inquiry (2020) also recommended at 47 (d) the RFS hold a meeting with communities who have concerns about backburn fires it lit during the Black Summer Fires.

  • The RFS have not done this for the communities of Mt Tomah or Berambing.

  • despite this recommendation NOT being implemented, Resilience NSW has reported that it has.

  • UPDATE: Two community meetings which the RFS attended were held in Berambing on 15 September 2022 and at Kurrajong Heights on 24th October 2022.

Suggested solutions

In relation to NSW Bushfire Inquiry (2020) recommendation 47 (c) we suggest that our community safety could be greatly improved if the RFS response document include a risk analysis tool and methodology, and that the State Operations Expert panel are independent experts in the field of weather, economic, and environmental science and are not RFS employees.

In relation to NSW Bushfire Inquiry (2020) recommendation 47 (d) we suggest:

  • That Resilience NSW withdraw their report stating that this has occurred,

  • That NSW RFS implement the recommendation and convene a meeting, as outlined in the NSW Bushfire Inquiry Report,  with the Mt Tomah and Berambing communities.



NSW Bushfire Inquiry 2020 Recommendation 47 (c) and (d) (pages 297-298)

NSW Rural Fire Service OP 1.2.20 Operational Protocol for Backburning 2021

Resilience NSW April-June 2021 Progress Report (page 38) 

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