Aunty Sharon Riley helped the RFS to protect Maiyingu Marragu rock art

The recent Gospers Mountain bushfire tore through 512,626 hectares and when it hit the Lithgow LGA it destroyed several structures and bushland.

In its path was Maiyingu Marragu (The Hands), an Indigenous place of cultural significance, located just off the Wolgan Road.

With years of work as a cultural heritage officer, Mingaan Wiradjuri Aboriginal Corporation's Aunty Sharon Riley worked with the RFS to help save the site.

Sharon said herself and the RFS had just a few hours to organise protection zones before the blaze hit the site.

"The RFS were in touch with us [Mingaan Aboriginal Corporation] and we knew the fire was coming our way so we were getting prepared for it and gave the RFS instructions for mitigation," she said.

She said with multiple sites around the reserve she focused on the main ones that were expected to be heavily impacted.

"It wasn't just one art site, it was multiple.

"I focused on the ones that had a lot of vegetation around them with the aim of reducing that fuel load," she said.

Sharon said the plan was to "get in and clear out as much as possible."

"It was a bit barbaric but they're plants and will grow back.

"You can't replace 13,000 year-old rock art," she said.

She said a lot of work was done to protect the rock art and thankfully, it paid off.

"Depending on how the fire came through it could have tunneled up through the rock and hugged it but by us clearing back as much [vegetation] as we could, we stopped it from getting in there," she said.

With Sharon specialising in conservation around aboriginal sites and rock art, she also has years of experience looking at the impacts of mining to art sites.

"The Hands are heavily impacted by longwall mining so while I was saving the ancient Aboriginal site, equally in the back of my mind was Angus Place," she said.

Sharon said when rock sites "long wall" it meant that the water table level drops and the oil shale level rises.

"When that occurs, the ground underneath gives way and you can get sink holes and subsidence lines and that create vertical cracks in the rock formation.

"But with the oil shale level that's risen, it actually weeps out of the rock, so if that was to catch on fire that oil shale on the surface on the rock would have kept going down underground and you'd never be able to put it out," she said.

"It would have stuffed Angus Places operations really."

Sharon said it felt meaningful to save a 13,000 year-old art site and protect Angus Place.

"I feel proud, we could've lost a hell of a lot more.

"In the bigger picture if the fire got to the rock sites it could have been a long term consequence," she said.

"It wasn't just a regular mitigation job, there was a real special meaning as to why we were doing it."

Sharon also thanked the RFS for helping with the mitigation.

"They were lovely and so helpful."

Chifley/Lithgow RFS inspector Mick Holland said he contacted Sharon because he knew she knew the site well.

"I contacted Sharon because the fire was possibly going to impact the site and being of such cultural significance we wanted to protect it," he said.

He said the RFS met with Sharon to put protection zones in place and he was pleased that it worked.

"We protected it as best we could from that fire.

"It makes us feel good because we had a lot of wins and losses in that fire and this was a win," he said.

"You know, there's insurance for things like houses but insurance can't replace rock art."