The 2019-20 bushfire season is the most widespread and extreme that NSW has ever experienced. More than 5.4 million hectares burnt across NSW, including 2.7 million hectares of national park estate (up until 3 February 2020). In some regions, over 50% of the national park estate has been impacted.
Within Kosciuszko National Park, just over 231,000 ha, or 33.5% of the national park has burnt. The Adaminaby complex (which originated out of the Green Valley fire) and Pilot Lookout fires were finally declared extinguished on 16 February 2020.
The following report comes from The Resort Roundup (available here), published by the State of NSW and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
According to the Resort Roundup:
“Heavy losses to assets occurred during the fires including the destruction of most buildings within the Selwyn snow resort, and loss of buildings at historic Kiandra including the Kiandra Courthouse. The courthouse was originally built as a police station in 1890. It was one of the last reminders of the Kiandra village which housed up to 10,000 people in the 1860s gold rush.
The town of Cabramurra was also badly impacted, with the loss of many buildings including the former school and the historic ski rope tow.
Nine historic huts were destroyed and several others significantly damaged. Huts destroyed were Bradley’s, Brooks, Delaneys, Four Mile, Happy’s, Pattersons, Round Mountain, Wolgals and Sawyers Huts.
Incredibly, Yarrongobilly Caves House was saved during the fires due to work by just 6 NPWS staff undertaking dramatic back burning operations and setting up sprinkler systems around the buildings as the fire storm approached, before they retreated to the safety of the caves as the fire storm passed through. Currango homesteads were also saved during the fires.
The fires have had a severe impact on wildlife including threatened species. Animals that survived the fires are at increased risk from feral predators such as cats and foxes. Many important habitats will take years to recover or may never recover to their pre-fire state.
The NSW Government is now implementing an emergency recovery plan to protect and restore wildlife populations. A rapid assessment was undertaken to identify the proportion of habitat that has been lost for key threatened species, and to identify the critical remaining habitat areas. Interventions to protect threatened species habitat are being undertaken on the ground.
Some initiatives implemented include targeted food drops for some species and establishment of watering points.
NPWS is still looking to continue with its hazard reduction burn program and is looking at remaining unburnt areas and assessing them for their strategic value in fire protection.