Mayor shows re­lief in wake of bush­fires

Narrogin Observer - - News - Shan­non Smith, Toby Hussey, Saskia Adysti and Tim Edmunds

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.

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