State fire agencies have expressed a reluctance to accept help from Victorian firefighters, as authorities plan for the upcoming fire season.
The 2020-21 bushfire season will be like no other before it, as emergency services agencies contend with COVID-19 restrictions.
While most of the country is set for a reprieve from the deadly conditions of last season, parts of Queensland and Western Australia are facing above-normal fire potential.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Friday work was under way on a national firefighters code, which - like the freight and agricultural codes - would allow firefighters to more easily pass over state borders to respond to an emergency.
"We obviously don't want firefighters doing two weeks in hotel quarantine when there's a fire burning in south Western Australia," he said.
Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) chief executive Stuart Ellis said firefighters working interstate would face daily temperature checks, and possibly COVID-19 testing before and after deployment.
Their base camp would be like a "bubble". There would be no mess tent - each firefighter would be given an individual meal - and there would be no shared tents.
And while firefighters already wear masks, there would be fewer allowed to be in a fire truck at one time.
Mr Ellis said a firefighter code was needed as it would be a "pretty big ask" to ask a volunteer to fight a fire for five days and then quarantine for 14.
He pointed to the United States, where there had been little transmission of COVID-19 on the fireground.
But Mr Ellis said some states had shown a preference not to receive help from Victorian firefighters, as the state remains in the grip of a surge in coronavirus cases.
"Some jurisdictions have indicated that if they are in need of interstate firefighters their preference certainly currently is they not be Victorian," Mr Ellis said.
Victorian firefighters have played a key role in responding to interstate fires, particularly in Tasmania.
Mr Ellis said he hoped the sentiment would be short-lived.
"I think it will all sort of calm down, that it may not remain a consideration, but right now there is an indication that people would welcome interstate support when they need it, but their preference is not Victorian," Mr Ellis said.
The ACT Emergency Services Agency said all interstate deployments, including from Victoria, would be assessed on a case-by-case basis with advice from the National Resource Sharing Centre (NRSC) and the chief health officer.
"ESA understands that emergency services personnel are not exempt from each state or territories' COVID-19 restrictions and health directions," a spokesperson said.
"Should an emergency situation arise that requires an immediate response, ESA would follow advice from the NRSC, chief health officer and consultation across government to determine the appropriate action required to ensure the safety of personnel and the community."
The paring back of commercial flights could also be a problem if firefighters need to be moved around the country, Mr Ellis said.
"It really depends on where the firefighters come from. For the east coast, in large portions, the firefighters travel in their own vehicles from Queensland into NSW or Victoria into NSW or vice versa," Mr Ellis said.
"In fact, at the height of the fire season last summer we had available firefighters but we didn't have any more available vehicles.
"But certainly Western Australia deployed firefighters across to the east coast and South Australia potentially does that as well, and so domestic movement of firefighters is important and we need the flights to be able to do that."
AFAC was looking to ensure Australia's aerial firefighting capacity was at the highest possible levels, just in case there were issues getting enough personnel on the ground, he said.
"It doesn't replace firefighters on the ground, aerial firefighting almost never puts out a fire but particularly if we're facing a situation where there is less availability of firefighters because of COVID then we want to ensure that our aerial capabilities are at maximum availability," Mr Ellis said.
The ACT ESA said it was well equipped going into this fire season, with 462 active ACT Rural Fire Service members, 354 ACT Fire & Rescue members and 834 Community Fire Unit members.
It is also providing firefighters with ESA-brand hand sanitiser, and telling them to adhere to social distancing and strict hygiene measures.