Mayor shows relief in wake of bushfires
Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington says he hopes he never again sees conditions like those on Thursday night and early Friday morning as fire tore through the region.
Mr Wellington will spend this week visiting fire-damaged properties across the region to get a grasp of the scale of the event.
With a full assessment, he hoped actions would be put in place to ensure a similar firestorm was never repeated.
“We were just concentrating on getting the fires out over the weekend and we will do a full assessment this week,” he said.
Mr Wellington said he wanted to find out whether there could be better ways of informing residents during bushfire emergencies.
“The difficulty is getting all the information out to people when you need to,” he said.
“You can put it over the radio and in the paper but if you aren’t reading the paper or don’t have the radio on, you aren’t going to get that information,
“I think we will investigate ways that everyone can get a notice on their phone if there is a fire coming, perhaps through an app that everyone has on their phone.”
The lack of mobile phone service in some areas was another concern Mr Wellington raised.
“We will talk to Telstra and the Government about getting support for that — extra towers and things like that so that people can communicate,” he said.
With blazes in Napier, Redmond, Stirling Range National Park and Peaceful Bay, the region suffered extensive losses of farmland, livestock, property and bushland.
Mr Wellington said given the horrific conditions, the region was extremely lucky to escape with the loss of only one home and no human lives.
“If we had been told the outcome on Thursday night, that we would escape with one home lost and no lives, we would have taken it in a heartbeat,” he said.
“You can’t describe how lucky we are.
“Some of it is down to luck and a lot of it is down to the work that is done by volunteers. I have been here for 68odd years and this is the first time I have seen what is supposed to be cold front come through with a northerly wind.
“I’ve just never seen it before in my life and hopefully never see it again.”
Firefighting resources were exhausted in the region, with 130 firefighters attending to 50 different blazes across the district.
In Albany, an emergency bushfire warning was in place for parts of Redmond, Marbelup, McKail, Elleker and Torbay, while another emergency warning was in place for Napier.
By the following morning, 130 new firefighters had arrived to swap shifts with those who had fought through the night.
Grant Gunn said a fire that tore through his Great Southern neighbourhood and burnt his neighbour’s house was the fastest- moving blaze he had seen.
Mr Gunn, who has spent more than 30 years as a volunteer firefighter, said he was shocked when he saw how quickly the fire spread on his neighbour’s property in Napier, about 30km north-east of Albany.
“When I woke up I was expecting to have half an hour to save the property but when I got there I was five minutes too late,” he said.
“The wind was just so strong and so fast — there was no stopping it.
“You could not have outrun the fire.”
The neighbour’s property, estimated to be worth more than $200,000, could not be saved. The neighbours left their home early in the evening but Mr Gunn, who lives a couple of kilometres away, decided to stay and protect his land.
He said having a defence plan may have saved his life.
“I’m sure my house wouldn’t be here right now if I had evacuated, but I stuck with it,” he said.
“I followed through and saved my house.”
Mr Wellington congratulated the entire community on a superb effort.
“The volunteers were sensational and the management of the fire was fantastic,” he said.
“Nothing was too hard and everybody came from everywhere, the local community offering free beds, hotels and motels, businesses offering food — it just shows what a great community we have.”
City of Albany deputy Gary Duncan and chief bushfire control officer Darren Prior look over the countless bushfires which exhausted the city’s firefighting resources on Thursday. Picture: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser
The map of the fires at 2am on Friday.
Torched bushland in Napier.