COMMUNICATION: Wallangarra Fire incident controller Tim Chittenden addresses community members at a Wallangarra meeting. He said fire alerts between states were a key issue in this event.
COMMUNICATION: Wallangarra Fire incident controller Tim Chittenden addresses community members at a Wallangarra meeting. He said fire alerts between states were a key issue in this event. Liana Walker

'We got it wrong': Cross border alerts a key issue in fire

BUSHFIRE alerts during the Wallangarra fires had many residents questioning if they should stay or evacuate.

It was a communication issue which incident controller Tim Chittenden admits they got wrong.

With the fire stretching across the state border, alerts were sent out from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.

Mr Chittenden said the biggest issue was when the two states were at different warning levels for the same fire.

"There were instances where Queensland was at an advice level while New South Wales was at a watch and act,” he said.

"Because the fire was on two different sides, the conditions are different on one side to the other.

"The New South Wales side was really roaring.”

An emergency text alert from New South Wales was another cause of confusion for some residents. However with the texts operating through phone towers, Mr Chittenden said it likely wouldn't be able to be fixed.

He said there needed to be a commitment from both states to work off the same message and it's something he planned to bring up at a cross border meeting next month.

Other than the confusion with alerts, Mr Chittenden was impressed with how cross border operations worked throughout the fire.

"We had a liaison officer from Glen Innes in Queensland and we have very good communication between the two services,” he said.

"It put a lot of pressure off both services.”

He was also impressed with the level of engagement from the Granite Belt community.

"We probably haven't done that level before,” he said.

"We thought it was very positive. In general the community were very happy with the information we provided.”

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