Fire ex­per­tise plea

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Green-minded Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River coun­cil­lor Peter Lane says the State Govern­ment’s un­der­use of lo­cal bush­fire ex­per­tise is “al­most crim­i­nal”.

In a de­bate on Wed­nes­day night, Cr Lane’s pro­posed let­ter to Mark McGowan was unan­i­mously ap­proved by fel­low coun­cil­lors.

The short, to-the-point let­ter out­lines “the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of timely lo­cal con­sul­ta­tion, par­tic­i­pa­tion and knowl­edge ap­pli­ca­tion in fire mit­i­ga­tion”.

Speak­ing about the 2011 bush­fires which tore through the re­gion af­ter twin for­mer De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion-con­trolled burns es­caped con­tain­ment and de­stroyed more than 40 prop­er­ties, Cr Lane said lo­cal knowl­edge “would have saved all of that”.

“The dis­re­gard of this enor­mously valu­able as­set is al­most crim­i­nal,” he told his peers.

The let­ter asks the Premier to di­rect State fire con­trol agen­cies to con­sult with prop­erty own­ers and vol­un­teer brigades ahead of fu­ture pre­scribed burns, say­ing warn­ings from res­i­dents in 2011 “were ig­nored”.

“To ef­fec­tively con­trol a fire, lo­cal knowl­edge is im­per­a­tive,” the let­ter states.

“This ex­tends from a knowl­edge of the roads, the to­pog­ra­phy, and even in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties.

“Lo­cal weather con­di­tions are typ­i­cally a crit­i­cal fac­tor.

“Lo­cals will nat­u­rally have a greater sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“They have to live with their re­sults.”

Re­cent coun­cil de­bate has told of dis­ap­point­ment with the La­bor Govern­ment’s bush­fire mit­i­ga­tion strat­egy and lack of cer­tainty around re­gional bush­fire con­trols.

Sto­ries abound about lo­cal brigades be­ing as­signed in­cor­rectly dur­ing the 2011 dis­as­ter, as well as vol­un­teers who risked cen­sure to tackle hotspots on their own.

On Wed­nes­day night, Shire pres­i­dent and veteran vol­un­teer fire­fighter Ian Earl said progress had been made since 2011 through the State’s Capes En­hance­ment Strat­egy.

“(The De­part­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices) has worked very hard over the en­su­ing years to make sure lo­cal knowl­edge is used,” he said.

Cr Earl also said “it can’t hurt to have the ear of the State Govern­ment”.

Cr Pam Town­shend backed up Cr Lane’s con­cerns.

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