Bushfire-battered communities across the New England hope the state government's inquiry into the Black Summer blazes will arm them with the tools to fight off the next "unprecedented" fires.
Some 329 days after the first fire ruined homes outside Tenterfield in September, the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry is set to release its findings as early as Friday.
RFS Captain Matthew Wharton was one of the heroes of the Black Summer bushfire.
The 20-something fire veteran charged into the Wytaliba tragedy across a burning bridge to help defend the tiny, isolated community from one of the worst blazes the region has ever seen.
He said there's nothing the inquiry can recommend that could make it easier for the next RFS crew in that situation.
"I don't think there's really anything that we could have done to stop it bar more HRs (hazard reduction burns) to try and kill down the fire intensity," he said.
"It was just the worst-of-the-worst sort of day really."
But he said government could improve future fire-fighting effort by better RFS recruitment.
Towards the end of the season that started in July and formally ended in March, people were totally worn out, he said.
"The hardest part I found all the way through it was having enough bums on seats in the trucks.
"In saying that I think on that day, down in Wytaliba, I couldn't say for certainty but I'm fairly sure that pretty well every truck was out on the ground that day, either at Wytaliba or on the way there, or at Torrington."
Announced in January and led by former NSW chief scientist Mark O'Kane and ex-police deputy commissioner Dave Owens, the inquiry has wide terms of reference and the power to investigate the causes of and response to the Black Summer bushfires. Premier Gladys Berejiklian committed it to "leave no stone unturned".
In March the inquiry held public hearings in Tenterfield and Glen Innes.
Glen Innes Severn councilor and RFS veteran Jeff Smith was among many who told the inquiry government should allow cattle back into the national parks where some of the worst blazes began.
With better management of fuel load and more accessible fire trails it probably would have reduced damage and fatalities by 60 to 70 per cent, he said.
"As a community we're getting it wrong; the RFS doesn't own any land. The RFS are there to put fires out," he said.
"The people who own the land, that are land managers - being state and private - they're the ones responsible for the fires. They're not managing their land.
"It's easy to point the finger at the RFS and say it's all their problem, that's way off the mark.
"Whoever owns the land owns the fuel, who owns the fuel owns the fire."
But Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks had a different message: the unprecedented fires were caused by climate change, she said.
"These droughts and the drying of our planet is causing these catastrophic fires," she said.
"Unprecedented is a big word, and we need to look at it as an urgency. It's urgent - that means we have to act on it like we're acting on the COVID, in that type of way.
"But it's very hard to get these climate deniers on board."
If the inquiry doesn't recommend the state government redouble efforts to slash NSW's carbon emissions it will be "very disappointing" she said.
"We are going to be fighting for our lives again in the future.
"So we just need to be prepared as much as we can be."