Day nine of the 2018 Reedy Swamp/Tathra bushfire inquiry has heard firefighting brigades struggled to communicate with each other as the devastating blaze quickly spread.
On Thursday, the inquiry heard there was "so much chatter" with firefighters "talking over the top" of each other over radio communication, by the time firefighters arrived at Tathra on March 18, 2018, many brigades were unable to know exactly what to do.
Radio contact was described as "non-existent" as firefighters attempted a "bump and run" strategy to "try and save Tathra".
Bega NSW Rural Fire Service firefighter Clyde Green described the scene as "mayhem" when his truck arrived in Tathra at around 3pm.
"At that stage we were all running by ourselves," he told the inquiry.
"We did what we could, with what we had."
Under the guidance of Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott, the three-week long inquiry will investigate the origin and cause of the fire, as well as the management of energy infrastructure, the management of fuel loads before the fire and the response of emergency services.
The fire burned through more than 1000 hectares of forest, causing $63.5million worth of damage, and destroying 56 homes and 35 outbuildings in and around Tathra.
NSW Rural Fire Service group officer David Lucas, who was responsible for nine brigades in the area, said while firefighting communications have improved since the fire, cross agency communications could improve further.
He told the inquiry telecommunication backup also requires improvement, as when mobile phone towers went down on the day, crews were left with limited communication.
Communication was completely lost with the Tarraganda brigade, which was undertaking property protection at Reedy Swamp, he said.
Mr Lucas told the inquiry, he only became aware the brigade had undertaken backburning operations "a few weeks ago".
He said in "normal circumstances" he would be advised at the time of backburns, but the lack of communication made that impossible.
"These were experienced firefighters. They know how to hold a fire," he told the inquiry.
Mr Lucas said a helicopter pilot had told crews the fire had crossed the Bega River sometime after 2pm, and he said a warning was put out to firefighters the Kalaru and Tathra areas were under threat.
After a welfare check on Vimy Ridge Rd residents was called off due to fire burning all around them, he tasked crews to travel to Tathra where homes were already on fire.
A half hour trip was needed to cross the river to Tathra, via Doctor George Mountain Rd and Tanja, Mr Lucas told the inquiry.
After meeting Tathra captain Adam Wiggins, he said it "was pretty clear and obvious where they [firefighters] were needed" due to visible spot fires, Mr Lucas said.
Nationally accredited fire behaviour analyst David Philp, told the inquiry a standby team had been put together the day before the fire, and on the day of the fire he had predicted it would move into forests north of Tathra, and not impact the town.
Mr Phlip said as the fire progressed, he had predicted it may cross the Bega River no earlier than 5pm.
He told the inquiry, conditions on the day did not match weather predictions, and the humidity had dropped from 38 per cent to 17 per cent in just half an hour.
Mr Philp told the inquiry, firefighters in Australia should be equipped with personal satellite tracking devices, similar to those used in the United States.
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