Tathra experience important in understanding firefighting challenges, bushfire inquiry told

The Reedy Swamp/ Tathra bushfire inquiry concludes this week. Photo: Katrina Walsh
The Reedy Swamp/ Tathra bushfire inquiry concludes this week. Photo: Katrina Walsh

Day 14 of the 2018 Reedy Swamp/ Tathra bushfire coronial inquiry has heard there were failures at a management level to recognise the possible devastating impacts embers could have on homes and property on the day of the fire.

Geoff Conway from the Advisory Committee on Firefighters Presumptive Rights told the inquiry he agreed telephone transcripts from the day of the fire exposed gaps in the intelligence involved in responding to the fire.

The March 18, 2018, fire destroyed 65 homes, 35 caravans and cabins and damaged further 48 homes in and around Tathra, displacing 700 residents and visitors.

Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott said concerns from firefighters on the ground about the potential impact of embers from the fire were not fully recognised by incident management teams in both Bega and Sydney on the day.


The inquiry had earlier heard NSW Rural Fire Service manager of the Far South Coast team Superintendent John Cullen received a 15 second phone call from fire behaviour analyst David Philp around 1.30pm describing the possibility of the fire moving towards Tathra.

However, the information was not reflected in later situation reports or alert levels.

"There's a huge amount occupying the mind of the incident controller," Mr Conway said, describing the "immense pressure" faced on the day.

Mr Conway told the inquiry information provided from firefighters including fire ground manager David Lucas was "critically important" in fighting the blaze, adding the "high-stress fire" has become an important case study in helping understand the challenges involved in gathering intelligence and analysing it quickly and effectively.


He told the inquiry satellite and airborne technology could better analyse information in real-time, and worst case scenario planning should be improved.

He said firefighting agencies should have an increased focus on simulation training involving the multiple agencies involved in tackling blazes.

Under the guidance of Deputy State Coroner Truscott, the three-week long inquiry is investigating the origin and cause of the fire, as well as the management of energy infrastructure, the management of fuel loads before the fire and the response of emergency services.

The fire burned through 1300 hectares of forest, causing $63.5million worth of damage.

The inquiry concludes on Friday, August 21.

This story Tathra experience important in understanding firefighting challenges, inquiry told first appeared on Bega District News.