Deadly Brushfires Haunt Western Australians
The system for managing bushfires in WA (Western Australia) is “failing citizens and the government”, a special inquiry into the deadly Yarloop and Waroona blazes has concluded, and if change does not occur, “then the prospect of a future catastrophic bushfire event is increasingly likely”.
Six months after the devastating bushfires in Western Australia’s Southwest, residents say they are still haunted by what happened.
Last week a report into the tragic blaze was released to the public.
The report by former Victorian and South Australian Country Fire Service Chief Euan Ferguson focused on January’s devastating lightning-sparked bushfire at Yarloop, which killed 2 elderly men and destroyed 181 properties, including 166 houses.
Mr Ferguson’s Key recommendation was for WA to follow NSW, Victoria and South Australia in having a specialist country fire service to improve rural fire management and bushfire risk management, saying he recognized that was a contentious conclusion.
Professional firefighters rejected the Key finding saying a new dedicated country service wasn’t needed if existing agencies work together better.
United Firefighters’ Union Secretary Lea Anderson said there was no need to spend money establishing a separate government department, although there was the option of creating a rural division within the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
More co-operation between existing agencies was crucial, Ms. Anderson said Friday. ‘We need to get people working together and clearly they haven’t been,
‘We need to sort out the mess that is the management of fire in this state. We are the only state in Australia that has bushfire brigades under the guidance of over 120 different government agencies.”
Association of Volunteer Bushfire Brigades Vice President Dave Gossage said unpaid firefighters wanted to work effectively with the government and communities.
But volunteer and paid firefighters took different approaches.
‘When you’ve got volunteers, they do what works … when you’ve got paid, they do what they’re told,’ Mr. Gossage said.
With the state government due to respond to Mr Ferguson’s recommendations in September, Liberal MP Murray Cowper said its decision had to be in consultation with people who know most about contemporary rural firefighting – the Department of Parks and Wildlife, volunteers and local governments.
‘If that means that its going to be a rural fire service, then that’s what it shall be. But we are not just going to pick up a template from the Eastcoast and say this is going to be adopted in Western Australia.
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By Rhys O’Connell
Paul Ebeling, Editor
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