SA volunteer firefighters won’t defend the undefendable

SA volunteer firefighters won’t defend the undefendable

23 October 2009

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Australia — South Australia’s volunteer firefighters say they won’t risk their lives trying to defend houses not properly prepared for the bushfire season.

Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteers president Ken Schutz said CFS officers were well trained and equipped but many were frustrated when they came across properties that were potential death traps.

“Our firefighters will not put themselves at risk trying to defend a property that is undefendable or without an accessible escape route,” he said.

“If owners don’t take some responsibility to try and prepare their property then why should we put ourselves at risk to try and defend it.”

Emergency Services Minister Michael Wright said it was inconceivable that many property owners in areas at risk of bushfires had not heeded the messages to clear vegetation around their homes.

Recent research by the CFS suggested two-thirds of all people living in bushfire zones were not adequately prepared for summer.

Mr Wright said it was critically important that property owners took responsibility for their own safety.

But Mr Schutz said many people now living in bushfire areas had not lived through a major fire before and had little appreciation of how they could be affected.

“They have huge expectations of the CFS, believing we will be at their doorstep as soon as a bushfire threatens,” he said.

“We do what we can with defendable properties but, if we can say no lives have been lost during the bushfire season, then we have achieved our greatest goal.”

Mr Schutz said CFS crews had checked and rechecked their equipment ahead of summer and their systems had been prepared and rehearsed.

“However, a bushfire always throws up new challenges,” he said.

“Things will never go as planned because a bushfire has a mind of its own and we never have any control over the weather.”

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