'Firies have nothing left in the tank' ex-chief warns ScoMo
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he's confident Australia's "standing volunteer force" is capable of seeing off an unprecedented bushfire season but a former fire chief says many are already on their knees.
Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins voiced his fears for the welfare of volunteers on Tuesday afternoon while himself on the way to fight a blaze at Mangrove Mountain on the state's Central Coast.
An emergency warning was issued for the fire after 1pm as almost 3000 firies battled more than 80 bushfires across NSW, with half of them uncontained.
Mr Mullins said crews were working 12-hour shifts and with many travelling two hours each way to reach fire grounds, meaning they faced 16 hour days.
"Everyone is getting pretty worn out and, in my experience, that's where all the bad stuff happens," he told AAP.
"The troops, if they're worn out, you get to a stage where it just overwhelms everyone, so that's a worry."
Mr Mullins - who was the FRNSW boss from 2003 to 2017 - said early in the season firefighters were full of energy but as the weeks and months dragged on they reached a point of having "nothing in the tank".
"I'm buggered ... and I haven't done as many (shifts) as some people," he said.
"People will step up.
"Firefighters - they are men and women who give their all - they will do whatever is asked of them and more but I do fear for their welfare."
Mr Morrison meanwhile held a press conference in a Sydney skyscraper on Tuesday with smoke obscuring the harbour views.
He praised the efforts of volunteers battling blazes across the country but dismissed the idea of paying volunteer firefighters.
"I was speaking with the (NSW RFS) commissioner on the weekend out at Wilberforce - where we have the megafire out in the northwest at the moment - we were talking through the crew rotations and the fact is that these crews, yes they're tired, but they also want to be out there defending their communities," he told reporters.
"We do all we can to rotate the shifts to give them those breaks but equally, in many cases, you've got to hold them back to make sure they get that rest. I thank them all for what they're doing.
"We are constantly looking at ways we can better facilitate the volunteer effort but to professionalise that, at that scale, is not a matter that has previously been accepted and is not a matter that's currently under consideration by the government," he said.
Mr Mullins said as the bushfire season continued and volunteers kept requesting time off work their employers would start saying: "Hey we've got a business to run."
Agencies such as Fire and Rescue NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service had a limited pool of people to call on and "they'll all be feeling the same thing", the ex-fire chief said.