Fuel load alert is­sued

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page - Therese Col­man

Res­i­dents in coastal ar­eas have been warned about com­pla­cency as fuel loads re­turn to lev­els seen be­fore the dev­as­tat­ing 2011 Mar­garet River bush­fires.

Wall­cliffe Vol­un­teer Bush­fire Brigade has urged all res­i­dents, es­pe­cially in the coastal ar­eas from Wilder­ness to Prev­elly and Gnarabup, to im­ple­ment bush­fire plans and clear dead wood from around homes.

“A quick drive around th­ese same streets . . . and it looks like a lot of res­i­dents seem to have me­mory loss as to what can hap­pen,” a brigade spokesman said.

“All through­out Prev­elly and Gnarabup, res­i­dents have al­lowed fuel to build up around their prop­er­ties. Th­ese ar­eas are not quaint lit­tle in­ner-city Perth sub­urbs.

“They are high fire-risk com­mu­ni­ties in the mid­dle of highly volatile bush.”

Wall­cliffe bush­fire brigade posted pho­tos on so­cial me­dia of the area from 2009, dur­ing the fires in 2011, and pho­tos from last week as a re­minder.

“Pre­par­ing your prop­erty for the bush­fire sea­son needs to be ac­tioned im­me­di­ately as we are fast ap­proach­ing the re­stricted fire sea­son of Novem­ber 9,” it said.

Mar­garet River-based MP and Op­po­si­tion emer­gency ser­vices spokesman Steve Thomas said a wet win­ter had con­trib­uted to higher fuel loads and coastal ar­eas were not the only lo­ca­tions at risk.

“Fuel loads are high this year as rain­fall pat­terns have gone back to a more nor­mal win­ter regime, which has re­sulted in higher growth of veg­e­ta­tion, es­pe­cially un­der­growth,” he said.

“There is al­most no area of the shire that is not a high fire risk, and as the years pass since 2011 and mem­o­ries fade, it is too easy to be­come com­pla­cent.”

Dr Thomas said res­i­dents shouldn’t rely on emer­gency ser­vices in the case of a bush­fire.

“With the best in­tent in the world, your lo­cal vol­un­teer bush­fire brigade can­not save all those houses with high fuel loads, es­pe­cially veg­e­ta­tion and trees, sur­round­ing them,” he said.

“In­deed if those fuel loads are too great, the vol­un­teers would be fool­ish to try as they would be putting them­selves and their col­leagues at risk.”

Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River com­mu­nity emer­gency ser­vices man­ager Chris Lloyd ac­knowl­edged man­ag­ing fuel loads in coastal ar­eas was a con­stant ef­fort and had its chal­lenges, but said seven years had passed since the 2011 fires and fuel loads were “again at a high level”. “Prop­erty own­ers are en­cour­aged to do what they can to en­sure their prop­er­ties are pre­pared for this fire sea­son,” he said.

Mr Lloyd said the Shire would soon be send­ing out a Bush­fire Man­age­ment No­tice and in­for­ma­tion, and bush­fire ready groups would con­duct prop­erty walks.

The Shire, De­part­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices and De­part­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions will con­duct planned burn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to re­duce fire loads in com­ing weeks,.

Visit dfes.wa.gov.au for de­tails.

Pic­ture: Sean Block­sidge/Wall­cliffe Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade

Wall­cliffe Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade say fuel loads near Prev­elly and Gnarabup are at a sim­i­lar level to 2011, be­fore the dev­as­tat­ing bush­fire that de­stroyed more than 50 prop­er­ties.

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