Fire expertise plea
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.