The head of the NSW Rural Fire Service says the service was recently considered to be the "number one enemy" due to its hazard reduction operations impacting on developed areas.
Now in the wake of an unprecedented bushfire crisis, loud voices in the social media-fuelled mob claim fire authorities should have done more.
Speaking to Australian Community Media in Quaama on Monday, January 20, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said hazard reduction was a challenge and the RFS was doing more with it today than had done historically.
"But let's not forget the fact that it's only a few months ago that we were number one enemy because we were doing hazard reduction burning and smoke was impacting on settled areas creating health challenges and those sorts of things," he said.
"There was this widespread call to stop hazard reduction burning because of the inconvenience and the health implications.
"So as a society, as a state and as a nation, we need to have a very sensible dialogue about what it means to be working better in the fire management space.
"Part of that comes to managing fuel load and the best way to manage landscape fuel loads is to do more burning - more periodic burning, more mosaic patterns of burning - on cyclical basises.
"We've got to be able to invest in this space with resources, but also with the community backing that understands the importance and the criticality of things like prescribed burning."
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said those making plans for fire management had to be very mindful that "particularly since European settlement" there were a lot more people settled in the traditional paths of fires that would have burnt across the landscape.
When asked what the state needed to prevent bushfire emergencies such as the current one occurring again in the future he said "what we really need is rain".
NSW was currently witnessing "one of the worst droughts in memory", he said, with 100 per cent of the state drought-affected or drought-declared and fires were burning across the landscape in areas that traditionally it would not have gone through.
"So you've got rainforests and wet areas that were dry that are burning," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
"We're seeing spot fire activity starting 10, 12 kilometres ahead of the main fire front.
"They are real challenges and our big investment is in redevelopment and in rebuilding - making sure we're building with better standards and better conditions to enable communities and homes and infrastructure to better withstand fire.
"The reality is we've always been a fire-prone landscape and will continue to be a fire-prone landscape."