Australia state announces inquiry into catastrophic bush fires

New South Wales, the Australian state worst hit by this season’s enormous bushfires, has announced an independent inquiry into the continuing blazes, including the reasons why they started and the role that climate change may have played.

The six-month inquiry that will begin this week will examine how state authorities prepared and responded to the “unprecedented” 2019-20 bushfire crisis, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thurs

It would be crucial to “leave no stone unturned,” Berejiklian said.

She said the inquiry will be led by two experts – former state police Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens and former state chief scientist Mary O’Kane, who will travel to affected communities and take submissions from the public. They will not hold public hearings.

“We’ve asked them to start during the [bush fire] season to ensure that they can do all the work they need to do for now because we want to report in a timely fashion, we want it ahead of the next season,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

The inquiry will look into how climate change, drought, hazard-reduction burns – which are conducted to reduce fuel load before the bushfire season – and human activity contributed to the fires.

The relationship between state authorities and federal authorities during the crisis will also be examined.

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