Bushfire-affected farmers and residents told the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry last night a state government ban on cattle in national parks "costs lives".
Blaming the National Parks and Wildlife Service for "locking up" forested areas, one witness said if state government had allowed them in and done regular burns they could have stopped the deadly blazes.
Witness after witness asked the inquiry to recommend government reverse the ban.
At one point of the over three-hour inquiry, investigator Professor Mary O'Kane asked the packed room in Glen Innes if New England had any experience whatsoever of fire.
The room was in universal agreement: no.
David Donnelly, a former Glen Innes mayor said he remembered the last fire in the area - which happened over 60 years ago.
Kevin Chard, a farmer from Pinkett, put the blame for the unprecedented blaze squarely on the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Eliminating the old ways of grazing cattle "costs lives" he said.
"We never raped the country, we looked after it," he said.
"We never ever had bushfires in that country until the parks took over and locked it up."
Jeff Smith, a Glen Innes Severn councillor and 25 year RFS volunteer, said letting cattle back in came down to a simple questions..
"Do we want to preserve life?" he said.
Wytaliba residents Abby and Badja Sparks gave a very different version of their experience of the tragedy.
Badja Sparks told the room the Wytaliba community not only did repeated hazard reduction burns but was earlier that year hit square on by a different emergency blaze.
The 40 year resident of the community blamed the worst drought on record for creating a "tinderbox".
"There was nothing anyone could do to stop that fire," he said.
The Kangawalla blaze demolished 66 homes in the alternative community last year, and killed two residents, injuring half a dozen more..
The school was lost to the flames.
Abigail Sparks said it was incredibly lucky the kids had been sent home for the day when the school caught on fire. The village had no warning, she said.
Badja, husband of local mayor Carol Sparks, lost a home in Wytaliba badly damaged in the blaze.
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall attended the inquiry but was unavailable for an interview.