EXCLUSIVE

Fires rage near Coonabarabran in January 2013.

Fires rage near Coonabarabran in January 2013. Photo: AFP Photo/NSW Rural Fire Service

A parliamentary inquiry into the Coonabarabran fire that claimed 53 houses in 2013 is likely to blame the National Parks and Wildlife Service for critical delays in handling the blaze, Fairfax Media understands.

The NSW upper house investigation is also expected to call for changes to streamline the payment of compensation to householders and farmers following the fire which started in the Warrumbungle National Park before spreading to neighbouring properties.

When former prime minister Julia Gillard visited the scene of the January 2013 "Black Sunday" Coonabarabran fire and met those who had lost their homes, she likened the scene to a lunar landscape.

On Friday, the inquiry will report on where firefighting systems failed.

A firefighting source has told Fairfax Media the inquiry is also expected to be critical of the delay in giving the emergency a "Section 44" status, where all responsibility passes to the Rural Fire Service. 

The inquiry, led by Legislative Council member Robert Brown, of the Shooters and Fishers Party, was called for by residents frustrated by the length of time being taken by the coronial inquiry. There is still no date for the release of the coronial inquiry report.

Mr Brown declined to comment on the findings of his report.

"All I can say is that our inquiry has canvassed all of the issues that were raised, has made a series of recommendations and our hope would be that the government would act upon these issues and do it quickly," he said.

"There have been a series of coronial inquiries going back 25 years now for major fires. Generally, their recommendations have been very clear, very blunt and very plain. The problem seems to have been that governments have not accepted and acted upon many of those recommendations."

The biggest controversy surrounded the decision to start backburning on a day when catastrophic conditions with 44-degree temperatures and strong, dry winds were forecast.

An alliance of Coonabarabran property owners told the inquiry they believed that National Parks and Wildlife Service formulated a plan to light a backburn to control the fire which was questioned by the divisional commander in control but he was overruled.

"We believe that other NPWS staff also disagreed with the proposed backburn operation," the group stated.

But the NSW government said in a submission that backburning was discussed at the time of shift changeover for the NPWS incident controllers, with both the departing and incoming controllers '"discussing and agreeing to the modified strategy".

Rural Fire Service stations were informed of a new protocol last July which requires that an incident controller from the National Parks and Wildlife Service must provide situation reports and other information to the fire services.

The upper house report is expected to call for even further clarity over command and control.

Farmer Stephen Lill, speaking of the legacy of the fire, said that his son, Martin, had left the farm six months after the fire, which destroyed 88 prized cows. 

"He didn't like burying his cows," he said.

Both he and his wife, Elaine, had suffered depression and he was $1.1 million out of pocket, he said.

Told that it was likely there would be calls for compensation payments to be expedited, he added: "If that proves to be correct, it's the best news I've had in two years."