Member for Wagin Terry Waldron MLA has welcomed last week’s announcement that the State Government will support all 17 recommendations of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire, by Euan Ferguson AFSM.
Mr Waldron said many of the recommendations from the Ferguson Inquiry were already being implemented ahead of the 2016 bushfire season.
“It is important Western Australia is best placed to respond to fires which cause significant damage and destruction across regional WA,” he said.
“Significantly, the State Government has agreed to adopt a recommendation to establish a Rural Fire Service. I’ve always been and will continue to be a strong supporter of our country fire services and that is why I strongly welcome this move.”
“I also support the State Government’s decision to consider the advantages and practicalities of establishing a Rural Fire Service. This is great news for regional WA,” Mr Waldron said.
The views of a wide range of relevant community groups will be canvassed at a forum this year, including 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.
Work is also underway to address bushfire risk on Government-owned land which would be supported with an additional $15 million over four years from Royalties for Regions.
A key issue highlighted in the inquiry was the need for greater emphasis on the prevention and risk mitigation on Crown land.
Mr Waldron said the State Government had reacted quickly by allocating additional funding to this area ahead of the 2016-17 bushfire season.
“This increased funding will be available to State Government agencies responsible for, and adjacent to, regional townsites to ensure a more coordinated approach to risk mitigation on Crown land,” he said.
Nationals WA candidate for Roe Peter Rundle said local knowledge, experience and expertise in fighting bushfires could mean the difference between maintaining a fire or it getting out of control.
“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,” Mr Rundle said.
“WA has experienced several catastrophic fires in recent years, and we need to continue to improve our response to reduce the chances of this happening again.”
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 has 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.
There will also be an independent review into the Emergency Services Levy.
Mr Waldron said the State Government would continue to work as quickly as possible to enact measures from the recent inquiry, to ensure WA communities were better prepared and more resilient to emergencies in the future.
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