In 2020 the Rural Fire Service (RFS) approached Blackash Consulting to help them undertake work to assist the bushfire rebuild in NSW after the 2019/20 state-wide bushfire natural disaster which destroyed over 2400 homes across 34 local government areas.

Many communities in NSW experienced significant psychological and financial impacts caused by the fires and for communities to rebuild in the most practical and appropriate manner, the RFS developed a unique process to assist the bushfire rebuild effort across NSW.

The RFS engaged Blackash to complete the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) mapping and site-specific BAL determination across the impacted areas in NSW. Blackash piloted the BAL mapping approach in three areas; Lake Conjola, Cobargo and Rosedale. Based on these pilots, Blackash determined that the BAL mapping approach was efficient and appropriate for broader adoption.

Through the project, 24 NSW communities affected by the 2019/20 fires were provided with BAL Maps. This covered approximately 574 of the destroyed houses in NSW. The maps were suitable to inform the Development Application of Complying Development process.

For those properties not part of the communities provided with a BAL Map, Blackash prepared individual BAL assessments based on requests received through the NSW RFS.  Through this service, Blackash prepared BAL Certificates for 119  properties. This included a BAL certificate and site specific map for areas of BAL-29 or less if they were suitable for Complying Development.

As a part of this process, Blackash also undertook further analysis of any properties identified as within the Flame Zone to find solutions to maximise Asset Protection Zones (APZ) and move buildings into a lower BAL area on the property. Every effort was made to enable rebuilds to occur outside of the flame zone. This was undertaken for 87 properties.

In circumstances where the required APZ could not be achieved (i.e. required on adjoining private land, steep terrain or environmental constraints) and all practical options had been exhausted, the rebuild was capped at BAL-40.

Lake Conjola BAL map

The approach taken by the RFS was not ‘typical’ practice and the BAL mapping and advice provided by Blackash only for the purpose of the rebuild and not for the purposes of redevelopment or other development outside the rebuild effort.