The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner has promised the millions of dollars raised by comedian Celeste Barber won't be left to sit in a bank account, with the money to be spent on training and new equipment before next year's season.
The NSW Supreme Court on Monday ruled the $51.3 million raised by Barber through a Facebook charity drive - with the NSW RFS as her nominated beneficiary - could not be redirected to interstate charities or bushfire-affected communities.
However, the money could be used to support injured firefighters and the families of those who lost their lives while fighting blazes over NSW's unprecedented fire season in 2019-20.
Barber, described by Justice Michael Slattery on Monday as "public-spirited", launched the appeal entitled "Please help anyway you can. This is terrifying".
After far exceeding her $30,000 goal, she stated on social media she wanted the money also distributed to rural fire services from other states, including Victoria and South Australia, victims of the summer bushfire crisis and wildlife funds.
But Justice Slattery said public and private statements by Barber or the donors didn't bind the trustees and the funds "must be applied only for the purposes set out in the RFS Trust Deed".
Incoming RFS commissioner Rob Rogers on Tuesday said he recognised the $51.3 million was not intended solely for his organisation, but the money would be prudently spent.
Barber would be kept in the loop on any spending programs, he said.
"She knows we're going to spend the money on making sure our volunteers are looked after, " Mr Rogers told ABC TV.
"The other thing that we have committed to do is to provide accountability back to her and indeed to the public about where exactly this money has gone.
"All we can do is respect the decision of the court and start spending that money, making sure it doesn't sit in bank accounts (and is) used for what it's intended for."
Barber hoped the money could be distributed to other states and charities because "it was such a big and unprecedented amount".
"Turns out that studying acting at university does not make me a lawmaker," she said in a statement on Monday.
"So the money will be in the very capable, very grateful hands of the NSW RFS.
"To our volunteer firefighters you are rock stars like no others."
The RFS has sought feedback from members regarding how the funds should be spent.
The cash will likely be used to purchase firefighting equipment including respiratory systems, helmets and chainsaws and also improve "network connectivity" in vehicles and stations.
"We need to get that work done and equipment issued before the next fire season. In NSW, in the northern part of the state, it starts in August," Mr Rogers said.
"The clock is ticking and the pressure is on us to deliver things."
Australian Associated Press