Fire risk sparks warn­ing

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - War­ren Hately

Fore­casts for a high sum­mer bush­fire risk and com­pla­cency have the re­gion’s fire­fight­ers urg­ing res­i­dents to pre­pare for an emer­gency.

Wall­cliffe Vol­un­teer Bush­fire Bri­gade made the call on so­cial me­dia this week, say­ing the six years since the 2011 bush­fires tore through the re­gion had seen res­i­dents be­come less ac­tive pre­par­ing for the sum­mer high-risk sea­son.

“It is mind-bog­gling to see how many prop­er­ties are woe­fully un­der­pre­pared,” bri­gade so­cial me­dia of­fi­cer Sean Block­sidge said.

“A quick drive around Prev­elly and Gnarabup and it seems a lot of peo­ple have com­pletely for­got­ten they live in a high fire-risk area.”

Au­gusta-Mar­garet River Shire pres­i­dent Pam Town­shend urged new res­i­dents to the area who did not have di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence of bush­fires to take warn­ings se­ri­ously and visit the Five-Minute Chat web­site run by the Depart­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices.

“There will be many res­i­dents who be­lieve that it won’t hap­pen to them,” Cr Town­shend said.

“This be­lief arises mostly from a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence of fire.

“It is these res­i­dents who need to read and lis­ten and seek ad­vice about the pos­si­bil­ity of fire in their area and how they need to pre­pare.”

Wall­cliffe bri­gade noted high fuel loads close to homes in many Mar­garet River lo­ca­tions, un­der- scor­ing find­ings from the Shire’s Bush­fire Risk Man­age­ment Plan that 25 per cent of homes were in high or ex­treme fire dan­ger.

Cowaramup Vol­un­teer Bush­fire Bri­gade fire con­trol of­fi­cer and for­mer Shire pres­i­dent Ian Earl said six years on from 2011, most of the burnt coast­line had re­cov­ered to

“quite heavy fuel loads”. The fuel build-up would re­quire more fire­break clear­ing, po­ten­tially against the wishes of res­i­dents want­ing to pre­serve the aes­thetic of na­tive bush.

Cr Earl asked for trust in the ex- per­tise of lo­cal bri­gades and that ac­tion was im­por­tant. “Part of the com­pla­cency that con­cerns me is from those who think that ev­ery time bri­gades do a burn, they are able to pro­vide up to 40 peo­ple to make sure that the ap­pear­ance of the bush is pre­served,” he said.

“This will cause some of the neigh­bours or com­mu­nity mem­bers to com­plain, but the Shire and the bri­gades or who­ever else does the mit­i­ga­tion works need to be al­lowed to get on with the job of pro­tect­ing the com­mu­nity.”

Post­pon­ing pre­scribed burns of­ten meant adding a year’s de­lay, Cr Earl said.

Cr Town­shend said the Shire’s proac­tive ap­proach to re­duc­ing fuel loads was chal­lenged by con­cerns about au­tumn smoke taint and late rain af­fect­ing spring burns.

Shire chief bush­fire con­trol of­fi­cer David Hol­land said bri­gades were busy pre­par­ing to help com­bat bush­fires this sum­mer.

Mr Hol­land asked res­i­dents to “do their part in pre­vent­ing bush­fire by pre­par­ing them­selves, as well as their prop­erty, for the up­com­ing bush­fire sea­son”.

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