The immediate response to the Orroral Valley blaze which devastated Namadgi National Park has been called into question, as fresh concerns are aired about the handling of Canberra's summer fire disaster.
Submissions to the ACT Legislative Assembly's inquiry into the territory's worst fire season since 2003 have detailed more first-hand accounts of the summer emergency, including from highly experienced volunteers.
The submissions provide further insight into the fractured relationship between brigades and ACT government agencies and the low morale among volunteers. One unnamed volunteer wrote in their submission that there were "significant once in a generation issues with firefighter morale".
The accounts echo many of the concerns expressed anonymously in an internal Emergency Services Agency review of the bushfire season, which was leaked to The Canberra Times earlier this year.
The agency again defended its handling of the summer emergency when asked to respond to the submissions on Friday.
It said it was aware of concerns expressed by volunteers and some staff regarding the fire season, and was actively listening and working with all involved to ensure it was prepared ahead of the next one.
In a detailed 17-page submission to the Legislative Assembly inquiry, senior volunteer Garry Mayo expressed concern about authorities' poor treatment of his colleagues and the tactical decisions made during the emergencies, which he said needed to be independently reviewed.
Mr Mayo described internal concerns about the early response to the Orroral Valley fire, in particular the use of the large air tanker to fight the blaze soon after it was sparked by the landing light of a Defence helicopter on January 27.
He said crews had to leave the fireground as they waited for the plane to arrive and drop retardant, potentially costing valuable time which could have be spent trying to contain the blaze. The Orroral Valley would ultimately burn for a month, scorching more than 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park.
"After the drop there can be delays when returning to the fire due to fallen timber across access points. This is all time lost when crews might otherwise be working to suppress the fire," Mr Mayo wrote in the submission.
"There are also questions about the effectiveness of retardants in direct attack particularly as they can be patchy in forested areas. Timber, knocked to the ground, can add to the fuel available to the fire."
In one of 13 recommendations put forward in the submission, Mr Mayo said the committee should try to establish whether or not the tactics used in the early stages of the Orroral Valley firefight were "as effective as they could have been".
Mr Mayo's submission also provides an account of one of the flash points in the fire season - the agency's refusal to release ACT crews to cross the border to help defend properties near Bredbo after the Orroral Valley blaze spotted into NSW.
He said the strike team placed at Guises Creek, which comprised 13 appliances, was stood down at 9pm without behind deployed, despite February 1 proving to be "one of our worst fire days".
Some 12 homes were destroyed near Bredbo in the so-called Clear Range fire. Mr Mayo said ACT crews would have "undoubtedly had an impact" had they been sent out.
"The IMT's [Incident Management Team] decision not to deploy the strike team was deeply felt by all those present," he said in the submission.
"It did not help that there was no communication from the IMT by way of explanation. It was a continuation of the long silence from the IMT who seemed oblivious to the presence of the volunteers.
"To this day we don't know if the decisions that the IMT made that day were an astute use of resources, the IMT was overwhelmed by the situation, or they got it wrong."
In a statement to The Canberra Times, an Emergency Services Agency spokesperson said it was proud of the operational response to the fire emergencies.
They noted that numerous inquiries were underway into the bushfire season, including new ESA deputy commissioner Ray Johnson's review of the ACT government's response. Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman has committed to publicly releasing that report.
The spokesperson said acting ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Rohan Scott was confident that the agency was "well on its way" to addressing the issues raised by volunteers.
"As an experienced ACTRFS volunteer and staff member for over 24 years, Mr Scott has a sound understanding of the issues affecting a volunteer service, and has an established rapport with our volunteers, meeting regularly with the brigade captains and the volunteers themselves."
The Legislative Assembly inquiry is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on Tuesday.