Lazi­ness could cause ‘cat­a­strophic sit­u­a­tion’

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Fire­fight­ers at Jan­uary’s West­bay bushfire, caused by an il­le­gal camp fire.

The re­gion’s top fire­fight­ers are “on edge” about the loom­ing sum­mer bushfire sea­son and have pleaded with landown­ers to take ac­tion pre­par­ing their homes be­fore sum­mer starts.

The ad­vice comes as the so­cial me­dia-savvy Wall­cliffe Vol­un­teer Bushfire Brigade blasted some ab­sen­tee landown­ers last week for fail­ing to put in the hard yards re­quired to clear fire­breaks and make ru­ral homes safer.

The brigade posted an im­age of an im­pass­able fire­break at Kil­car­nup it warned could lead vol­un­teer crews into a “death trap”.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we could high­light an­other bunch of sim­i­lar stan­dard hope­less fire­breaks around the Wall­cliffe brigade district — most of them ab­sen­tee land­hold­ers or hol­i­day homes,” the brigade said.

“While we love the idea that city peo­ple have hol­i­day homes in the coun­try, we take this op­por­tu­nity to re­mind peo­ple that hol­i­day homes in the bush come with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and obli­ga­tions to your neigh­bours to main­tain your prop­erty to a cer­tain stan­dard.”

Wall­cliffe warned of “a po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic sit­u­a­tion caused by some lazy landown­ers who didn’t bother to get their act to­gether prior to bushfire sea­son”.

Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River com­mu­nity emer­gency ser­vices man­ager Chris Lloyd told the Times the re­stricted burn­ing pe­riod started on Novem­ber 9, with a to­tal fire ban start­ing on the pro­hib­ited burn­ing pe­riod on De­cem­ber 22.

Mr Lloyd said he and se­nior brigade mem­bers “felt on edge” about the up­com­ing fire sea­son.

“We live in a de­clared bush­fire­prone area and we have mit­i­gated to the ca­pac­ity of our re­sources,” he said.

“A lot of good work has been done and we have come on in leaps and bounds in terms of tak­ing a more strate­gic ap­proach, but we can’t re­duce fuel loads for the whole re­gion.

“We des­per­ately need prop­erty own­ers to come to the party and en­sure their land is well-pre­pared for fire risk, whether it’s res­i­den­tial or ru­ral, com­mer­cial or in­dus­trial, oc­cu­pied or va­cant, de­vel­oped or un­de­vel­oped, or oth­er­wise.”

Mr Lloyd feared prop­erty own­ers did not un­der­stand their col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing com­mu­nity safety.

“The pre­pared­ness of any one prop­erty can sig­nif­i­cantly in­flu­ence the spread of fire to other neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties,” he said.

“A well-pre­pared prop­erty with low fuel loads and good ac­cess for fire ap­pli­ances can give fire­fight­ers not only the op­por­tu­nity to save both that lot, but pro­vides po­ten­tial to slow or even stop the spread of fire to neigh­bour­ing lots.

“Con­versely, a poorly pre­pared prop­erty can ac­cel­er­ate a fire and cause dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for neigh­bours.”

Mr Lloyd said ef­fec­tive fire man­age­ment re­lied on mass sub­scrip­tion to the fire man­age­ment re­quire­ments.

“Fuel loads are high and dry this year and I urge and re­it­er­ate to you the dan­ger of fire in this re­gion is real and you need to be pre­pared,” he said.

“Pre­pare your prop­erty and play your part in re­duc­ing risk to your­self and your neigh­bours and the wider com­mu­nity.”

In Oc­to­ber, the WA Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced tough new penal­ties for breach­ing fire bans, in­clud­ing $1000 on-the-spot fines.

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