Officers resume fire duties after review

Officers resume fire duties after review

16 September 2010

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Australia —  Two West Australian conservation officers will resume full fire duties after a review cleared them of serious fault during a bushfire that killed three truck drivers.

The fire in Boorabbin National Park on the Great Eastern Highway west of Kalgoorlie in December 2007 killed Trevor Murley, Lewis Bedford and Robert Taylor.

Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) Director-General Keiran McNamara on Thursday announced the results of investigations into two staff involved in managing the fire.

In November the WA Coroner reported on the deaths, making adverse findings against DEC incident controller Barry Hooper, planning officer Bradley Barton and logistics officer Bradbury Commins.

The DEC appointed SWY Consulting to conduct investigations into alleged breaches of discipline in line with provisions of the Public Sector Management Act.

Mr McNamara said in a statement the critical decision to reopen the Great Eastern Highway to traffic on December 30, 2007 was taken Mr Hooper without consulting Mr Barton or Mr Commins.

Mr Hooper ceased employment with the DEC in November last year.

Mr McNamara said he had accepted the SWY investigator’s finding that Mr Commins was not careless in carrying out his duties.

The investigator found the incident management team’s planning section was understaffed.

He found that issues beyond Mr Barton’s control found him in the planning officer role despite not being accredited to deal with the scale of the Boorabbin bushfire.

“I have found that a minor breach of discipline should be recorded against Mr Barton,” Mr McNamara said.

“Based on the mitigating factors in his case, no penalty will be imposed.”

Mr Barton and Mr Commins voluntarily stood down from frontline fire duty after the coronial inquest.

Both would now resume full roles within DEC’s fire management structure, Mr McNamara said.

He said that since the Boorabbin fire the DEC had implemented a number of measures, including stringent procedures to manage traffic during bushfires.

Mr McNamara said he again extended his apologies and sincere condolences to the families and friends of the men who died in the fire.

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