• A firefighting helicopter battles a bushfire near Bairnsdale in Victoria's East Gippsland region. (State Government of Victoria)Source: State Government of Victoria
Firefighter and emergency organisations from across the country are collectively calling on the federal government for an immediate inquiry into the ongoing bushfire crisis.
Shahni Wellington

9 Jan 2020 - 12:50 AM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2020 - 12:50 AM

A group representing professional and volunteer firefighter unions has requested the federal government launch a Royal Commission into the ongoing bushfire season that has so far claimed over 20 lives and 1,687 homes.

In an online media conference held on Wednesday, leaders from the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (NSW), multiple United Firefighters’ Unions including Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, Public Service Association of NSW, and the NSW Volunteer Fire Fighters Association issued a clear call for an inquiry.

The proposed Royal Commission would assess the availability and funding for firefighting resources, red tape in recruitment processes, communication protocols, and environmental factors. 

The group said the inquiry would ensure the nation is better prepared to prevent, mitigate and respond to similar outcomes in the future.

State Secretary of the United Firefighters’ Union of Queensland, John Oliver, said a Royal Commission was the only appropriate response.

"We need to properly examine all facets of what has occurred this Summer... Why has this season been different to the past?" He said.

"We need to have confidence in a body that could be set up to do such work, only a Royal Commission can give us that. 

"I've seen many reports being built for fire agencies, particularly after major events... We can no longer rely on these reports to provide unbiased advice to the decision makers."

The General Secretary of Public Service Association of NSW, Stuart Little, said assessing funding for frontline services from both state and federal governments would be an essential part of the inquiry.

"We've had budgets cut over many, many years, obviously during times where there weren't fire seasons.

"Now when we're having a major fire season - something we've been warning about for many years - we're caught unaware," said Mr Little.

"That's ridiculous. We need to plan, we need to fund, and we need to permanently fund."

On Wednesday, while visiting the fire-ravaged community of Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would consider a Royal Commission only once the bushfire season has ended.

Hazard reduction not a panacea, RFS boss Shane Fitzsimmons says
The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner has weighed in on hazard reduction, saying the single biggest impediment to completing burns is weather.