AS bush fire season approaches, NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) staff and volunteers in the Tamworth district are taking their preparation approach to a whole new level.
A state-wide interface project being run by the RFS kicked off across the region last week after Tamworth, Moree and Coonabarabran mitigation teams completed a comprehensive training program in identifying hazards.
Manager, Community Risk North Western area command Shellie Smyth said the project is in recognition of the recommendations from the Black Summer bushfires royal commission.
Team members have been undergoing comprehensive inspections of interfaces - the sections where built-up areas meet bushland - to provide a field of intelligence in relation to fuel loads.
"We're using an electronic survey tool, like a jotform, that's been sent out to all our brigade members to enable them to easily provide us some feedback in relation to their locations," Ms Smyth said.
"We are seeing elevated grass growth, and we'll be working to find some solutions to reduce that fuel load over the coming months."
While year-round hazard mitigation is certainly not new for the RFS, this concentrated effort by a lot of different parties to undergo interface inspections and speak to the local community has never been done before.
"We do already have a requirement to inspect our villages pre-bush fire season each year," Ms Smyth said.
"But we've never gone out to brigades to provide that detail, this is a new way of working, so it's good for us to get that local input from people that live in their communities."
RFS Tamworth District Manager Allyn Purkiss said the interface program is about doing "everything we can to protect properties".
"Out of the inquiry there was some talk about better knowledge, better preparation of the interface of some of the villages and towns," he said.
As always, there is a particular focus on the very high risk village of Hanging Rock, and unmanaged Crown Lands.
"Hanging Rock has got a western facing slope and the village sits basically right at the edge of that slope and it is very steep so we can only do so much," he said.
"When it's that steep, we physically can't do anything, we can't do mechanical work, we can't do burnings, it's too dangerous.
"So we manage the little bit of land from the edge of the scrub back to the houses as best we can but we do a lot of community education.
"Street meetings, talks in town, door knocking, letter drops, just explaining to the people up there quickly a fire would move."
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