Canberrans who were at the South Coast during the Black Summer bushfires are being called upon to inform a new research project to help understand how people reacted to the crisis.
The project, being run by the Melbourne-based Bushfire and Natural Hazards and Cooperative Research Centre and the University of Wollongong for the NSW Rural Fire Service, will inform future community bushfire safety procedures.
The project's lead researcher, Dr Josh Whittaker, said last summer had been unique, potentially bringing many people into the line of bushfires who normally lived in areas which were not prone to fire risk.
He said recent fires had been unique because of the number of visitors and holidaymakers who were in fire-affected areas.
"In the past we've tended to focus our research on people who live in bushfire risk areas. But, for example, there were thousands of people visiting the South Coast when bushfires around Christmas and New Year hit, so it really presents an opportunity to examine how tourists and visitors to those areas experience the fires," Dr Whittaker said.
Dr Whittaker said researchers on the project were interested to hear how visitors had reacted to a tourist leave zone which was announced for the South Coast in early January.
"We know that there were a lot of people who found themselves in fire-affected places with their families who had to make some pretty major decisions about what they would do, potentially life changing decisions, " he said.
"I imagine there's a whole range of people who were visiting the South Coast for different reasons. Some may have had holiday homes, some may have been visiting caravan parks or camping areas; others may have just been there for the day.
"People's unique circumstances really influence how they experience a fire. Some people will have been aware of what was happening and others may not have."
The project will inform future community engagement, the NSW Rural Fire Service's director of communications and engagement, Anthony Clark, said.
"The 2019/20 fire season was devastating and affected so many people right across New South Wales. By hearing from you, we will be able to continue to improve community bushfire safety in New South Wales," he said.
The project's researchers are also speaking to people who live in areas across NSW which were affected by bushfire, including Batemans Bay, Malua Bay, Mogo, the Bega Valley and the Southern Highlands.
Participants in the project will be interviewed over the phone or through a web conferencing platform.
The interviews will last between 45 minutes to an hour, and times are available to talk to researchers after hours and at weekends during August.
People interested in participating can register online by clicking or touching here.