Homes not bush­fire-ready

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - Therese Col­man

The re­gion’s vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers says non­com­pli­ant homes, thick gar­dens and nar­row drive­ways made last week’s bush­fire ef­forts in Au­gusta a night­mare.

Au­thor­i­ties con­firmed some prop­er­ties could not be de­fended be­cause of poor main­te­nance that would have put crews in dan­ger, though they also praised own­ers who were bush­fire-ready.

Rosa Brook bri­gade cap­tain Richard Moroney said the fire safety mes­sage wasn’t get­ting through.

“There’s a lot of homes that are lucky they’re still there and the only rea­son is sim­ply be­cause we re­sponded as quickly as we did, and a lot of good for­tune,” he said.

“There are still peo­ple who were try­ing to save their prop­er­ties wear­ing thongs and shorts, which in­di­cates they don’t have a plan.

“These are, un­for­tu­nately, peo­ple that the mes­sage doesn’t seem to get through to.

“If you as a home­owner don’t take the time to pre­pare your prop­erty, how can you ask us to risk our lives to put the ef­fort in to save your home?”

Mar­garet River Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice cap­tain Jeff Bushby said it seemed prop­erty own­ers thought the “bare min­i­mum” was enough to save their prop­er­ties.

“Many have the at­ti­tude that ‘it won’t hap­pen to me’ and they do the bare min­i­mum they need to do in or­der to not get a fine from the Shire,” he said.

“But in cases like the Au­gusta fires, the bare min­i­mum is not enough.”

Au­gusta Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice cap­tain Alex Bern­hagen said some vol­un­teers were forced to dig fire­breaks dur­ing the emer­gency.

“Trucks have gone into (the fire zone) and put fire breaks in to stop houses from burn­ing down,” he said.

“There was a par­tic­u­lar area that was classed as in­de­fen­si­ble and it would have been too risky to go in there, but to the vol­un­teers’ credit they were still able to put fire­breaks around it to pro­tect the house.”

Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River com­mu­nity emer­gency ser­vices man­ager Chris Lloyd played down the ex-tent of homes not bush­fire- ready, but noted non­com­pli­ance is­sues.

“This re­sulted in sev­eral prop­er­ties be­ing deemed un­safe for ground crews to en­ter and it was only pos­si­ble that as­sets on these prop­er­ties were saved due to the avail­abil­ity of air­craft sup­port,” he said.

“The ca­pac­ity of air at­tack is strongly in­flu­enced by smoke and weather con­di­tions and should never be re­lied upon as an ad­di­tional fire­fight­ing re­source.”

Mr Lloyd said rangers would

con­tinue fire-break in­spec­tions and is­sue in­fringe­ments when re­quired.

He said the whole of Mar­garet River was a bush­fire-prone area and bush­fire risk man­age­ment was a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity be­tween Gov­ern­ment agen­cies and pri­vate landown­ers.

Depart­ment of Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice lower South West su­per­in­ten­dent John Till­man said the depart­ment was “aware of con­cerns re­gard­ing a lack of pre­pared­ness, in­clud­ing drive­way gates be­ing too small for fire trucks to fit through and high fuel loads around homes”.

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