Firefighters battling border bushfires or sent interstate have been put in an extremely dangerous situation because the states do not use the same radio communications, volunteers say.
There is an urgent need for a common communication platform for first responders, irrespective of their agency or jurisdiction, the bushfires royal commission has been told.
A Victorian volunteer firefighter deployed in NSW said the Country Fire Authority crews could not interact with any of their Rural Fire Service counterparts because they did not have compatible communication equipment.
"This on its own was extremely dangerous," the volunteer said in a commission statement.
Bruce Forrest, the captain of Victoria's Beechworth Rural Fire Brigade, said fighting bushfires on the border was always challenging because the radio communications do not work.
"All you can do is line of sight," he said on Friday.
"Hopefully you've got a UHF radio and the RFS have got a UHF radio and you're both on the same channel, because the Murray River's between you.
"Apart from getting out and waving, there's not much you can really do."
Mr Forrest said usually crews deployed into NSW would have a command vehicle that had contact with the local RFS and then disseminated the messages through to the trucks.
Another volunteer firefighter deployed interstate said different radio systems, frequencies and protocols all add to the inability to communicate effectively on the fireground.
Queensland volunteer John Stalker said maintaining effective communication with other state personnel could also be a problem, as the fire, police and ambulance services used different radio technology to organisations like the SES and the parks and wildlife service.
The noise, difficult terrain, heat, poor visibility, wind and dust during a bushfire all made communication difficult, let alone being faced with different radio technologies.
"It just is extremely difficult and also extremely dangerous and it also doesn't help effective fire management," Mr Stalker, from the Samford Rural Fire Brigade, said.
Firefighters have also told the inquiry the absence of reliable communications hindered the firefighting effort, particularly the lack of mobile phone coverage.
Australia's 250,000 volunteer firefighters have been hailed as heroes, but what they really want is respect for their experience, knowledge and professionalism.
They are protecting their community, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria CEO Adam Barnett said.
"Yes, they are absolutely brave. Yes, they are absolutely courageous. But the commitment and the professionalism of what they've given up to do it, to do it safely and to do it professionally is often missed."
State associations representing volunteer firefighters said the majority of volunteers did not want to be paid, but their out-of-pocked expenses should at least be covered.
"They do it to support their communities," said Andy Wood, president of South Australia's Country Fire Service Volunteers Association.
"It's not about the money."
Mr Stalker said some volunteers were overwhelmed by the intensity of the fires and the total annihilation they caused.
The commission was also told a few volunteers worked unacceptable 48-hour shifts, while some firefighters who were overrun by a bushfire that "jumped" the crews and truck were too stressed to go back.
Australian Associated Press