Australia’s bushfire crisis has been unprecedented, so it demands an unprecedented national response. Never before has such a large area been burnt by multiple fires in a single fire season, including bushland in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Victoria has already announced a state inquiry, and it’s inevitable there will be more to come. But some firefighters and other fire experts have raised legitimate concerns about the value of a national fire inquiry. Many fear Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s proposed national royal commission could end up being as ineffectual as past inquiries.

We’re not legal experts, so we can’t tell you whether a national royal commission or another type of federal inquiry is preferable. But as fire experts, despite sharing others’ concerns, we believe Australia does need a national fire inquiry – if it leads to real action.

For it not to be a waste of time and money, a national inquiry must be far-reaching, and its terms of references must include how Australia adapts to escalating bushfire risks, driven by a changing climate. It also needs to address the federal government’s current, largely hands-off role in bushfire management, and how that could change to better support existing state-based fire management.

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