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Systematic failures undermined response to Aus bushfires

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Canberra:  Systematic failures in administration and communication inhibited firefighters’ response to South Australia’s devastating 2019-20 “Black Summer” bushfires, an independent review revealed on Tuesday.

The review found that the Country Fire Service’s response to the 2019/20 Kangaroo Island (KI) fires was undermined by institutional failings, reports Xinhua news agency.

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 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.

“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.

“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.”

The scale and devastation of the 2019-20 bushfires garnered global attention. It claimed at least 33 lives, including nine firefighters.

Nearly 3 billion animals were also killed or displaced, and the fires harmed many threatened species and ecological communities.

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