Australia — STATE Emergency Coordinator Karl O’Callaghan has been told to release his phone records from the afternoon of the Perth Hills bushfires by a powerful parliamentary committee.
The Sunday Times revealed in August that Mr O’Callaghan, who is also the WA Police Commissioner, was at the WACA Ground watching the cricket from a corporate box while homes were being destroyed in the devastating Kelmscott-Roleystone fires.
He claims a breakdown in communication left him unaware of the severity of the emergency for nearly four hours. But a report by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority disputes that claim and says he was contacted several times throughout the afternoon and informed about the escalating fires, which destroyed 71 homes.
THERE were warnings of major communication problems between WA’s three fire fighting agencies as far back as September 2008, a parliamentary committee was told today.
STATE Emergency co-ordinator Karl O’Callaghan was at the WACA Ground enjoying the cricket during the devastating Perth Hills fires on February 6. End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
Mr OCallaghan has denied requests from The Sunday Times for access to his phone records from the afternoon of the February 6 fires to clarify the dispute.
However, the Community Development and Justice Committee today told Mr OCallaghan to release to his phone records as part of their public hearings into the communication problems between WAs three fire fighting agencies the WA Police, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority and the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Mr OCallaghan will only have to release the details of his outgoing phone calls during the bushfires.
Mr OCallaghan spent more than one hour this morning answering questions from the committee about the states preparedness for the upcoming bushfire season.
During a press conference after the hearing, Mr OCallaghan stood by his claim that FESA officials failed to advise him on the severity of the blaze during the afternoon.
Mr O’Callaghan has previously told The Sunday Times he was first alerted to the fires when an executive from FESA rang him at about 2.30pm on February 6.
He claims that phone call did not reveal the extent of the fires.
He said he was never called back by FESA and did not leave the WACA Ground until 4.40pm, when he was contacted by Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, who told him up to 40 homes had been destroyed.
As chairman of the State Emergency Co-ordination Group, Mr O’Callaghan is supposed to call the group together during catastrophes to ensure a co-ordinated response from emergency service agencies.
The bushfires started at noon on February 6, but the SECG did not meet until 6.30pm.