On 14 January 2020 the Honourable Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria, announced an independent Inquiry into the 2019–20 Victorian fire season (the Inquiry). A formal request of the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM) to conduct the Inquiry followed from the Honourable Lisa Neville MP, Minister for Police and Emergency Services (the minister), and the Inquiry Terms of Reference were finalised shortly thereafter.
The Inquiry is being conducted in two phases: Phase 1 considers preparedness for and response to the events that occurred over the 2019–20 fire season of which this is the resulting report; Phase 2 will consider the progress and effectiveness of Victoria’s immediate relief and recovery arrangements with the final report to be delivered by 30 June 2021.
Fuel management forms a central theme of this report. However, fuel reduction burning is not a simple panacea, any more than the reintroduction of Aboriginal burning practices will restore the Victorian bush to its pre-European condition.
Phase 1 of the inquiry reflects upon broader issues around the management of fire emergencies in this state. In relation to the 2019–20 fires, it examines how well prepared the Victorian community and those tasked with their protection was before the events. Phase one looks at how the State, its agencies and the community responded to the fires. It also touches on the immediate measures taken to relieve people’s suffering.