Avoid a fire re­peat

Wanneroo Weekender - - Front Page - Lucy Jarvis

EX­TRA mea­sures have been put in place to re­duce the risk of peat fires this sea­son af­ter fire­fight­ers suf­fered burns when they fell through the sur­face of un­der­ground fires last sum­mer.

City of Wan­neroo chief bush fire con­trol of­fi­cer Paul Postma said fires in dif­fer­ent veg­e­ta­tion types – such as pine plan­ta­tions, na­tive bush­land or grass­lands – all had po­ten­tial to be­come big fires. How­ever, risks with fires in for­mer wet­lands with peat soils be­came more ev­i­dent last sea­son.

“The is­sue with the peat fires is they have a po­ten­tial to burn un­der­ground; some can be up to 2m un­der­ground. We can’t al­ways de­tect where the fire is,” Mr Postma said.

“We had a 1ha peat fire in the for­mer Neer­abup lake in Feb­ru­ary; it was only 1ha in size but it burnt for five days.”

Mr Postma said they used 2 mil­lion litres of wa­ter on that fire, most of which was trucked in be­cause there was no retic­u­lated wa­ter sup­ply.

He said the peat fires also cre­ated a high risk for fire­fight­ers be­cause the acid sul­phate soils pro­duced sul­phuric acid.

“Where the fire­fight­ers are work­ing, we have to use breath­ing equip­ment,” he said.

“The other risk as­so­ci­ated with sub­ter­ranean fires is fire­fight­ers fall­ing through; they burn up to 600C.

“We had two fire­fight­ers fall through the sur­face. They re­ceived third de­gree burns to their hands and one of them to his foot; as he pulled it out, all the hot coals filled his boot.”

Mr Postma said, since that Feb­ru­ary fire, the City had iden­ti­fied ar­eas with peat soils and writ­ten to landown­ers rec­om­mend­ing ways they could re­duce the risk of fires in their land.

He said they had ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras on a cou­ple of fire trucks, which would help de­tect un­der­ground fires, and the DFES he­li­copter also had ther­mal imag­ing equip­ment.

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