NSW Rural Fire Service's Fires Near Me app testing the addition of fires across state borders

UPDATES: Those who update the RFS Fires Near Me app can now see the new, national standard fire alert icons. Picture: Emma Hillier
UPDATES: Those who update the RFS Fires Near Me app can now see the new, national standard fire alert icons. Picture: Emma Hillier

Southern NSW residents could soon be able to track fires in both NSW and Victoria on one app, with the NSW Rural Fire Service currently testing an update to its Fires Near Me program.

Fires Near Me currently shows the status of fires across NSW and the ACT on the RFS website and via its smartphone app.

In late 2020, NSW joined all states other than Western Australia in transitioning to the Australian Warning System, a national standard for logos and descriptions of the level of danger of each fire to reduce confusion across states.

NSW residents are encouraged to download and update the app, after which the new icons appear.

An RFS spokesperson said for NSW residents, the logos have changed but the messages have not, with Advice, Watch and Act and Emergency levels now yellow, orange and red respectively.

This system will also be used for other types of emergencies such as flooding or storms, however there are no current plans to add these emergencies to the Fires Near Me app.

However, the new national system has opened the door for the inclusion of fire incidents in other states.

The RFS spokesperson said testing was currently underway to include Victorian, South Australian and Queensland incidents on the app, allowing border residents to see fires in Victoria relevant to them.

The change is expected to be added to the app within weeks.

Currently, border residents are advised to follow the websites of relevant fire agencies in both NSW and Victoria.

Snowy Valleys Council chief executive officer Matthew Hyde said in the council's submissions to the Bushfire Royal Commission, improving cross-border communication around fires had been a major emphasis.

"We certainly put our submissions into the Royal Commission to say the boundary was a real issue for us and our communities weren't able to get cross-border communication," he said.

Mr Hyde said in the Snowy Valleys emergency operation centre during the bushfires at the beginning of 2020, it had been very difficult to track fires as they jumped across the Murray River on multiple occasions.

"We basically saw right up to the boundary, and had black space after that," he said.

He said it had been much easier to track fires moving in and out of the ACT which currently appears on Fires Near Me, and adding Victoria to the map would solve a lot of problems.

"If that can be resolved ... that'll be absolutely fantastic for both our community and our emergency operations centre," he said.

This story Fires Near Me app to cross state borders first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.