Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills MLC has welcomed the State Government’s announcement that it will support all 17 recommendations of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire.
Mr Grills said many of the recommendations from the inquiry, conducted by Euan Ferguson AFSM, were already being implemented ahead of the next bushfire season.
Significantly, the State Government has agreed to adopt the recommendation to establish a Rural Fire Service, either as an independent agency or sub-department within the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).
“The State Government’s decision to consider the advantages, disadvantages and practicalities of establishing a Rural Fire Service is a positive step and will be well-received by people in areas recently affected by bushfires,” Mr Grills said.
“For instance, Esperance residents have been calling for the creation of such a rural firefighting service since devastating fires swept through the region late last year.”
The views of a wide range of relevant community groups will be canvassed at a forum this year, Mr Grills said. This will include relevant agencies such as the Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, local government, volunteer firefighters and the United Firefighters Unions of WA.
Mr Grills said work was also underway to address bushfire risk on Government-owned land through the creation of a Mitigation Activity Fund, supported by a $15 million contribution from Royalties for Regions over four years.
“A key issue that was highlighted in the wake of last season’s devastating bushfires was the need for greater fire prevention and risk mitigation on Crown land, and the State Government has reacted quickly by establishing the Mitigation Activity Fund ahead of the 2016-17 bushfire season,” Mr Grills said.
“State Government agencies and local government authorities will be able to access the funding to conduct on-ground mitigation works on State land within and adjoining regional town sites throughout WA.
“I am thrilled by the announcement as it is an important matter I have been pursuing on behalf of farmers in the south-east.”
Nationals WA Candidate for the Agricultural Region Colin de Grussa said local knowledge, experience and expertise in fighting bushfires could mean the difference between containing or losing control of a fire.
“The State’s volunteer firefighters do an incredible job, although the implementation of the additional service would ensure local skills and knowledge were better utilised,” he said.
“Regional WA has experienced several catastrophic fires in recent years, and we need to constantly improve bushfire management practices if we are to reduce the chances of such horrible events happening again.”
Mr de Grussa said the recommendation to better utilise regional resources was also made in the March 2016 Major Incident Review (MIR) of the Esperance District Fires, prepared by DFES.
“I am pleased that the State Government is taking measures to improve bushfire mitigation and create a dedicated rural firefighting service able to respond to the particular needs of regional communities,” Mr de Grussa said.
Recommendations from the Ferguson Inquiry to be implemented prior to bushfire season include
* establishing five pre-formed multi agency incident management teams for level 3 incidents, which include representation from both Government and volunteers;
· * installing Automated Vehicle Location Systems in vehicles and appliances at a cost of $2.4 million;
· * establishing a $2.8 million critical messaging system by November 2016, which will issue warnings and provide advice on fire danger ratings and total fire bans. The information will be available on a new Emergency WA website to be promoted through the Are You Ready bushfire campaign; and
· * issuing identification cards to DFES volunteers in high-risk regions.
The State Government also announced its intention to establish a new Office of Emergency Management (OEM), comprised of the State Emergency Management Committee Secretariat and the Office of Bushfire Risk Management.
The Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire was tabled in State Parliament in June. To view the Waroona report visit – https://news.wa.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Government-response-to-Ferguson-Report-Online.pdf
The DFES Esperance MIR is available at –https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/publications/MajorIncidentReports/DFES-MIR-Esperance-District-Fires-Final-Report-March-2016.pdf