Member for Moore Shane Love MLA has hit out at suggestions that the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) assume control of the state’s volunteer bush fire brigades.
Mr Love voiced his concerns following comments by WA Fire Commissioner Wayne Gregson and a recent ABC radio interview in which Premier Colin Barnett suggested some Local Governments were not interested in supporting their bush fire brigades and major fires were no longer a place for farmers with their individual fire units.
The Premier said WA Fire Commissioner, Wayne Gregson had made a valid point in calling for bush fire brigades to be brought under the direct control of DFES.
Mr Love, a former Local Government Councillor and Shire President, refuted the claims and said it should be up to Local Government to decide whether they hand over control of brigades.
“In my experience, local volunteer farmers have served an absolutely vital role attending to and putting out many fires over the years,” Mr Love said.
“These volunteers have local knowledge which should not be underestimated, particularly when it appears DFES communications between central command and the fire front are often poor.
“Volunteers – whether farmers with their own private equipment or with Brigade units – arrive on the scene in an extremely timely manner.
“This quick response prevents small fires turning into big blazes that can’t then be controlled.”
Mr Love said that in the event of major lightning that spans the region, all possible people power was needed on the ground.
He said in his experience, Local Government had been supportive of volunteer bush fire brigades and the network of volunteer Fire Control Officers who provide the command structure in the regions.
“Brigade meetings provide an opportunity to air a difference of opinion but I believe that Local Government has a healthy respect for volunteers active in their local bush fire brigade,” Mr Love added.
“Some of these more experienced people have been putting out fires in their local area for 50 years or more and experience like that cannot be treated with contempt.
“I fear the day when people bringing their city-centric ideas into the regions will destroy the volunteer system.
“I think it would be very dangerous if we develop a culture where farmers who see smoke simply ring 000 and wait for someone else to come and put out a fire.”