Coroner to examine 25 Black Summer deaths

A coronial inquiry into the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 is due to open in Sydney.
A coronial inquiry into the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 is due to open in Sydney.

A coronial inquiry into the unprecedented Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 is due to open in Sydney, examining how 25 people were lost and some of the most dangerous blazes began.

The extensive inquiry will examine 44 fires referred to it, including 12 that led to deaths and those where the cause or origin remains in question.

After an opening address on Wednesday and subject to COVID-19 restrictions, the inquiry will tour the state over nine months, taking in Queanbeyan, Lismore, Armidale, Taree, Cooma and Katoomba.

Two weeks of hearings scheduled for Cooma in September - examining eight blazes including the deadly Badja Forest fire - will now be held in Sydney due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, each minute of the inquiry will be live-streamed on the court website.

The Black Summer fires - which numbered almost 12,000 and burned through more than 5.5 million hectares in NSW alone - have already been subject of several inquiries, including a royal commission.

An independent inquiry, led by a former police officer and a former NSW chief scientist and commissioned by the Berejiklian government, recommended landowners be obliged to conduct more hazard-reduction burns on their properties and take an active role in bushfire preparation.

But NSW State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan's inquiry will stay away from broader issues, instead focusing on events particular to each death and fire.

"The purpose is to inquire into relevant events and gather information about what happened ... not to lay blame or to make decisions about the liability of any person or organisation because of the fires," the court said in a statement.

Public submissions on the southern region fires have closed.

Those wishing to comment on the northern and central regions fires can make a submission via the court's website until October 1.

Australian Associated Press