Australia — WAs firefighters are bracing for a severe bushfire season, with a buildup of fuel and soaring temperatures forecast for next week increasing the risk.
The Weather Bureau has forecast temperatures above 30C throughout next week, reaching 39C on Wednesday and Thursday.
Fire & Emergency Services Authority chief operations officer Craig Hynes said the bushfire season was expected to be severe, with potential hot spots in the Perth Hills, the Darling escarpment and on properties within 100m of bush.
The late spring rain has promoted grassy growth that adds to the available fuel for bushfires, he said. The warmer weather has commenced and the bushfire risk is increasing.
The warning comes as the Opposition claims firefighters are underresourced in the face of what is predicted to be a record bushfire season.
Shadow emergency services minister Margaret Quirk said career firefighters were not provided with low-cost GPS navigational devices, forcing them to leaf through street directories while properties burned.
While thousands of Western Australians use GPS devices to navigate their way around Perths suburbs, it is astounding that our firefighters have been denied the same tool to rely on if there is a fire in those suburbs, she said.
Mr Hynes said GPS devices were being tested in several fire engines to ascertain the reliability of their maps and directions and the satellite signal.
But he said GPS systems were unfortunately not compatible with the mapping systems at the FESA communications centre, which could track a fire engines location in the metropolitan area.
Firefighters driving front-line fire engines knew the roadways in their response areas well and colleagues were on hand to help with directions, Mr Hynes said.
Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson said GPS units were being tested in a bid to resolve a number of safety issues with the devices.
Lives would be at risk if GPS units were installed in fire engines before the trial finished.