The ACT was well prepared to respond to the summer bushfires and it was not through accident or luck that no lives or homes were lost in the territory, a review has found.
But internal concerns and frustration about elements of the Emergency Service Agency's response, including the handling of rural fire service crews and the effectiveness of aerial firefighting tactics, have been acknowledged.
The ACT government has published the findings of internal and external reviews of the summer bushfire season, which was the territory's worst since 2003.
Emergency Service Agency deputy commissioner Ray Johnson prepared the review of the ACT government-wide response, while consultant Synergy Group was contracted to probe the agency's operational response to the fire threats.
Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman has accepted all of the recommendations made in the Johnson review, including the introduction of laws to allow for the appointment of a deputy emergency controller to support the commissioner through an extended crisis.
The new laws were introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning.
The independent review made more than 30 recommendations to the Emergency Services Agency.
Mr Gentleman used a speech to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday to outline how the agency can address concerns aired by disgruntled volunteers in the wake of the fire season, including extra training, better communication between headquarters and crews on the fireground, and management of fatigue.
Both reviews described the bushfire season as the ACT's worst since 2003, fueled by the same hot, dry and windy conditions which helped spark blazes across Australia.
The independent review found the ACT was well prepared to respond to the conditions because it had skilled and motivated personnel and the necessary equipment.
The season was marked by two major fire emergencies in late January; the Beard fire, near Canberra Airport, and the massive Orroral Valley blaze, which torched more than 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park.
While the government's response was broadly praised in the heat of the summer emergency, leaked feedback from ACT Rural Fire Service staff and volunteers to an internal review revealed wide-ranging concerns about the handling of crisis and the culture within the Emergency Service Agency.
The review heard claims that a "blame and shame" culture was prevalent inside agency headquarters, and the unacceptable behavior of the person in charge of the response - commissioner Georgeina Whelan - wasn't challenged because staff members feared they might lose their jobs.
The feedback was provided to Synergy as part of the review.
The independent consultant's final report made no reference to those specific allegations, nor did it include any negative comments about the culture inside the ESA's Fairbairn headquarters.
It found the "leadership, management and resilience of ESA staff" was exceptional given the challenging circumstances, and contributed to the "overall success of the response to the threats facing the ACT".
However, the review did note internal concerns about the operation of the incident management team, which oversaw the response. The criticisms related to the flow of information, firefighting strategy, allocation and prioritisation of resources and relationship with key personnel on the ground.
The consultant found the shortcomings were due to a relative lack of experience in dealing with major emergencies, rather any systemic failure in the organisation.
It recommended the structure and internal processes of the incident management team be reviewed. It also called for a review into how fatigue and workloads are managed across the agency after it was identified as a recurrent problem through the summer.
The independent review also found the Emergency Services Agency had "mixed results" with the aerial firefighting, which was a key strategy in the ACT's response.
In comments which reflect concerns expressed to the ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry into the fire season, the consultant found the use of fire retardant was largely ineffective due to Namadgi's forested, rugged and dry terrain.
The most effective strategy used during the fire season was on-ground firefighting supported by aircraft.
Speaking after the release of the report, Commissioner Whelan praised her team's effort, while offering some reflections of her own performance.
"What I have to be mindful of is that I make sure that I communicate my intent and the purpose behind that intent more effectively," she said.
"I have learnt a lot this season.
"I have always said that I'm on a learning journey. I've always said I'm not just open to, but receptive to the learnings that go on for any junior commissioner. I don't pretend to be perfect, nobody does."
Commissioner Whelan was disappointed that a "small group" of volunteers remained dissatisfied, but has vowed to keep working to regain their "confidence and trust".
The Synergy report said there was a perception that ACT Rural Fire Service crews were under-utilised during the fires, and senior officers were underrepresented in key positions.
Those roles were largely filled by ACT Parks and Conservation Service officers.
The consultants said that was the right call because of their knowledge of the ACT's local parks and reserves.
Commissioner Whelan said she wanted to provide more opportunities for volunteers to upskill so they were capable of stepping up to more senior positions.