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By Orlander Ruming – 21 July 2017

Devastation: Chris Wentworth-Brown of Uarbry lost his fmaily home in the bushfire. Photo: Belinda Soole

Devastation: Chris Wentworth-Brown of Uarbry lost his fmaily home in the bushfire. Photo: Belinda Soole

A coronial inquiry into the Sir Ivan bushfire would be a welcome opportunity to distinguish the facts from the opinions, State Member for Dubbo Troy Grant said.

The NSW Farmers Association passed a motion at their annual conference in Sydney this week to push for a Coronial Inquiry into the fire. The fire, which was caused by a lightning strike, destroyed 35 homes in Uarbry and the surrounding areas. It destroyed more than 55,000 hectares, according to NSW Rural Fire Service, as well as 5700 kilometres of fencing. The blaze burned for about a month. It killed 2000 sheep, 56 cattle, 90 goats and 36 poultry.

“We welcome any opportunity for any inquiry to examine any of these incidents which devastate communities so lessons can be learnt,” Mr Grant said.

“What it also does is it provides the opportunity to put the evidence forward in an inquiry so the information can be teased out, lessons can be learnt and the facts of the situation an the incident can be known.”

NSW Farmers’ rural affairs committee chair Sonia O’Keefe said a coronial inquiry would help identify any communication breakdowns that may have played a part in the blaze.

“A coronial inquiry would give the people who were affected by the bushfire an opportunity to put their story forward and to get their questions answered in a public forum,” she said.

“The fire has caused a lot of angst and distress for our members who were impacted and they believe there was inadequate communication between the RFS senior leadership team and those on the fire front.”

The calls for an inquiry were not a reflection on the great work of the men and the women who were on the ground fighting the fire, Ms O’Keefe said.

Mr Grant said the inquiry, if it was held, would identify where government resources were needed.

“Any of the agencies like the RFS don’t see these sort of inquiries as a boogeyman thing, they welcome the opportunity to put the evidence forward and they always welcome the opportunity to learn lessons as we always do when we’re confronted with disaster,” the minister said.

At the NSW Farmers’ Annual Conference, a motion was also passed to pursue shortcomings in the management of bush fires. Another was passed to ensure the RFS interpretation of an asset recognised the importance of livestock and pastures. The motion would look at issues including the deployment and most efficient use of RFS units during the fire, Ms O’Keefe said.

Mr Grant said it was not the decision of the government or the NSW RFS whether the inquiry would be held, but rather the NSW Coroner’s Court.

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