Volunteer firefighters and the opposition have spoken out about problems exposed by Canberra's summer bushfires.
One veteran firefighter has described the low morale among volunteers, who he said felt like "cannon fodder" and "second-class citizens" at the height of the emergency response.
The Emergency Services Agency has largely rejected the claims and backed its approach to dealing with the summer fires.
As rain and cooler weather helps bring the Orroral Valley fire in Namadgi National Park under control, questions are now being asked about authorities' handling of the fire season, and what lessons can be learnt ahead of the next one.
In a speech to the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, opposition emergency services spokeswoman Giulia Jones praised the efforts of firefighters - paid and volunteer - in responding to the blazes, before highlighting issues she said needed to be examined in the wake of the summer's events.
This included ACT Rural Fire Service staff and volunteers being ordered not to activate their truck's lights and sirens when responding to fires, as they hadn't received proper training. Mrs Jones claimed this restriction was lifted amid the response to the fire which threatened homes in Beard and Queanbeyan in late January.
She raised concerns about delays to the replacement of fire trucks, and claimed that "many, if not all" vehicles were not fitted with the bars or cages used to protect passengers from falling trees.
The problems flagged by Mrs Jones have been corroborated by volunteers who have fought blazes in the ACT and southern NSW in the past three months.
Angus McDonald, a senior deputy captain at Hall Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade, told The Canberra Times that he was en route to the Beard fire when he was advised that he could use lights and sirens while travelling through intersections.
Mr McDonald, who has been a volunteer for 17 years, said while he was confident with "urgent duty driving" [UDD], he was taken aback by the decision to seemingly issue new advice in the midst of an unfolding fire emergency.
"To be getting the call to respond with lights and sirens like that when you are out on the road, after having been instructed previously that RFS trucks are not to operate under UDD it was a bit of a surprise and shock," Mr McDonald said.
"How is it too risky for units to respond under lights and sirens without training previously, but now it's OK midway to a fire?"
Mr McDonald said he understood that his brigade's heavy tanker and commander vehicle, which were manufactured in 2002 and 2007 respectively, were due to be replaced about two to three years ago. He said trucks were fitted with a bullbar, but vehicles no added protection to shield crews from falling trees.
He said the dangers of falling trees had been brought into sharp focus during the national bushfire crisis. One of the Hall brigade's crews was the first to respond after two trees fell on a NSW Rural Fire Service truck stationed at the Orroral Valley fireground, injuring three firefighters.
The Emergency Services Agency provided a lengthy emailed statement to The Canberra Times late on Wednesday, which addressed each of the points raised by Mrs Jones and Mr McDonald.
It said crews were not told they could use lights and sirens during the Beard fire, although some vehicles were granted "exemptions" which meant they could mount the verge to bypass heavy traffic on Pialligo Avenue.
The statement reiterated that the original directive - which still stands - was issued for safety reasons, noting that "urgent duty driving" was a dangerous undertaking, and the Emergency Services Agency needed to consider firefighter and community safety.
I'm not saying I have to be the hero, I'm just saying that when I'm tasked ... I want to assist.Veteran volunteer firefighter
Addressing criticisms about vehicles, the agency said the ACT had the "most modern RFS vehicle fleet in the country". Brigade captains were briefed late last year that the timing for a vehicle's replacement was based not just on its age, but also its "serviceability and mechanical history", it said.
The agency acknowledged that the ACT rural fire service vehicles didn't have specific "falling object protection systems", but said that was a "topic of high importance".
Another veteran volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, said many unpaid firefighters were upset and frustrated with how they had been treated during the ACT's two major fire emergencies.
He said Parks and Conversation officers were tasked with leading the fire fighting efforts, often leaving volunteers without any "effective work" to do. He said that caused angst among volunteers, as they had to schedule time off work, or cancel family or other commitments, to be on the fire ground.
"The low morale comes from being fed up with [nominating] to do a shift, giving up time, and then getting there and thinking 'what am I doing here'. I'm not saying I have to be the hero, I'm just saying that when I'm tasked ... I want to assist".
In the statement, the agency said that they could understand the volunteers' frustration. But they said the nature of strategic firefighting operations meant that not all crews were actively battling a blaze.
"The strategic pre-positioning of crews providing bushfire, property and cultural protection, meant that not all crews were always utilised in active fire suppression," it said.
"The staging of these crews, should the need have arisen due to the predicted fire spread, necessitated they stand by in readiness.
"This was also experienced by ACT crews deployed to assist in the suppression of bushfires in Queensland and NSW this season. These are not ineffective roles."
ACT Volunteer Brigades Association president John-Paul Romano said his members "faced many challenges", many of which had been highlighted in recent weeks.
Mr Romano was concerned with a lack of "basic safety items" provided to volunteers during fires, such as proper protective masks.
He indicated that his group would be more active in pushing the interest of volunteer firefighters in the coming months, particularly on issues of welfare and safety.
Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said on Wednesday the government was committed to reviewing the response to the bushfire events.
Mr Gentleman said agencies were "well resourced" and "well prepared", which allowed them to protect Canberra's suburbs from the various fire threats.
"What we saw was some of the best in Australia - proud Canberrans - standing up and working to protect our territory in unprecedented conditions," he said.