Independent report claims inexperience, insubordination compromised response to South Australian bushfires

March 23, 2021 | Updated 4:30 pm

Independent report claims inexperience, insubordination compromised response to South Australian bushfires Smokes rise due to a bushfire in Canberra, Australia, Jan. 28, 2020. Source: Xinhua

CANBERRA, March 23 (Xinhua) — Systematic failures in administration and communication inhibited firefighters’ response to South Australia’s devastating Black Summer bushfires, a review has found.

The independent review, which was published on Tuesday, found that the Country Fire Service’s response to the 2019/20 Kangaroo Island (KI) fires was undermined by institutional failings.

About 50 per cent of KI was burnt in the fires, which killed two people, thousands of animals, including 25,000 koalas and almost 60,000 livestock, and more than 80 homes.

The sky over the Namadgi National Park turns orange due to a bushfire in Canberra, Australia, Jan. 28, 2020.
Source: Xinhua

The review commended the CFS for its hard work but found it suffered from deficient resources, inexperience, fatigue, breakdowns in communications, and insubordination by some crews who ignored leaders’ commands.

“An enhanced approach to psychological first aid, triaging and mental health support will likely lead to better staff and volunteer attraction and retention,” it said.

It found that a “disproportionate level of attention” was given to protecting buildings in the Flinders Chase National Park over saving homes.

CFS chief officer Mark Jones promised to accept all 11 of the report’s recommendations, saying they would improve preparation for future events “that seem certain to threaten South Australia” in the future.

A helicopter works at the site of a bushfire on the border between Canberra and Queanbeyan in Australia, Jan. 22, 2020.
Source: Xinhua

“Though our teams on KI tried their hardest to deal with the circumstances they faced, we accept that not everything went as well as we might have hoped,” he said.

“As the report notes, despite the unprecedented challenges faced, the outcomes were mainly good and the losses, although terrible, could have been so much worse.

“While we will rightly reflect and continue to make incremental improvements, seeking extra resources to do them, the process of doing so cannot be allowed to detract from the amazing efforts of our volunteer firefighters and everyone else who helped get the state through its darkest days.”