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(generated from captions) feel about it, it's fire, fires start - there's lots of different ways fires start and this is just another one.Joining me now is the man coordinating the firefighting effort, Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Commissioner, thanks for joining us tonight on 7:30 and thank you to you and all your volunteers for your work this week. Good evening, Annabelle. First of all I want to ask you about the pilot you lost today near Ulladulla. It must be especially hard after the relief of last night when we all hoped that the danger was receding? It's a tragic accident and I think it's a sober reminder just how dangerous firefighting can be, whether that be from the air or indeed operating on the ground. We saw that accident occur this morning. The plane has gone down and crashed. That crash resulted in the starting of another fire. It was tough enough for everybody operating on that fire ground to witness that, particularly the pilot's other aerial firefighting colleagues and they had to redirect their attention to starting to deal with the fire that was in and around the wreckage. As was indicated earlier, it was remote, difficult terrain and pretty windy and that made it challenging for police and rescue services to get in there. I've tonight spoken with the pilot's wife and clearly she's in shock and distressed but she's got a big job ahead of her. She's got a young family. She wants to talk to that young family and let them know what happened today and she did expressly ask that I not talk about names or locations or any personal details at this stage but our thoughts and prayers and our sincere condolences are with her, the family, the extended family. Of course the firefighting aerial pilots and firefighters that joined with that pilot, our thoughts and prayers are with everybody during this extraordinarily difficult time.Commissioner, there must have been praty hard conversation for you. I know you lost your own father to fire 13 years ago. Those children must be very much in your thoughts tonight? Look, it's awful, Annabelle. At the end of the day we talk about firefighting and necessarily so, but there is such a big human dimension and tonight there's a family that's not going to welcome home their dad or their husband and they've got a lifetime of hurt, a lifetime ahead of them to mourn the loss of their father who was doing some extraordinary work, loved doing his flying and was making a real difference to his community across NSW.Commissioner, what can you tell us about the behaviour of the State Mine fire now one week old and still burning? Look, it's still very active. There's lot of fire burning across the landscape, particularly to the northern edges. We've got fire that's being influenced by these strong southwesterly winds today. They're, in the main, running unchecked at the moment because we simply have, at this stage, no threat, no people in harm's way, and they're burning up into the park areas. Further south near the Bells Line of Road, we saw the fire cross the Bells Line of Road under these very strong 50 to 70km an hour winds or gusting even higher. It started heading towards the communities of mount Wilson and mount Irvine, that's why we issued the warnings. So too did we issue the warnings for communities along near mount Tomah and Berambing back towards Bilpin. The only machines that were able to fly in the strong winds were the air cranes. They continually dumped water on the fire to try and slow it down. That, with a combination of the easing of the winds just before nightfall, has resulted in us lifting that warning and allowing people to go back, should they have relocated.The acting chief of Defence has today apologised for that fire. Can you tell us - explain exactly how it started and, in your opinion, was carelessness a factor at any point? At this stage, my focus was simply, through our fire investigators, to have a look at where did the fire start and how did it start? What we did do, in concert with police and with the support of the military, we visited the live firing range when it was safe to do so. It was pretty conclusive that the detonation of some ordinance inadvertently has the side effect of starting a fire. That fire became uncontrollable and unsafe to try and suppress because there was other unexploded ort nns on the rain that was detonated and we had to pull back to a moredousive firefighting strategy. That's what we found in relation to how this fire started and where it started.It's a pretty hairy situation to be confronted with. Are you happy with the way defence manages its properties in the bushfire sense? Look, we work in partnership with Defence right across NSW where they have landholdings. In my conversations with the acting Chief of Defence today, as
anyone would expect, we are together in making sure, like we do in any fire situation, reflect and learn from what has happened and where we can, there is a united approach to making sure that we do improve things. If there are things we can do better then we owe it to everybody to do better and I didn't get anything but a positive thread from the Defence that that's exactly what they intend to do.Commissioner, the last week has seen some very intricate and strategic firefighting. Has this been the most complex operation you've been involved with? I mentioned a little earlier in the week this would have to have been unprecedented in a number of ways. Never before have we lost so many homes this early in the season and never before have we had a conflagration of fire around the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury region of this magnitude that needed to be dealt with this early in the season combined with some extreme fire danger ratings that were extending right across the area. Since being commissioner, this would have been the largest, most complex firefighting campaign that I've had to deal with but I also had the benefit of over a decade serving as Phil Koperberg's deputy, someone who had tremendous tenacity and skill in dealing with major complex fire situations and I'd like to think that I learned a little from him along the way and indeed throughout this campaign in the Blue Mountains I spoke to him on a number of occasions, leveraging off his experience, as I did many other volunteers in the Blue Mountains about the very real risk and the very real prospects for what was likely, should that fire have run under the forecast weather
conditions. That's why we took decisions to make some commitments to delivering on very, very targeted, very deliberate, albeit very high-risk strategies which did pay off and clearly we were blessed with some unexpected rainfall across much of the fireground the really slowed the fire down and it wasn't until the afternoon that the fire started sturg up again, rather than taking hold first thing in the morning that was originally expected in light of the forecast.Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, we're out of time. I'd like to thank you for your tolerance of us this week and your kindness in coming in to us tonight at the end of a