DEC defends decision to re-ignite prescribed burn that caused Margaret River bushfires

DEC defends decision to re-ignite prescribed burn that caused Margaret River bushfires

28 November 2011

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Australia — The Director General of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Keiran McNamara, has again defended a prescribed burn that got out of control and destroyed more than 40 properties near Margaret River.

Mr McNamara says the prescribed burn was initiated by the DEC on September 6 as a part of the South West prescribed burn program but wet weather caused a delay in its completion.

“Once a burn is started, it is necessary to complete it because you have live fire inside the burn, in pockets, in logs, in stumps and it will throw embers that spot outside the burn if you don’t complete it,” Mr McNamara told ABC’s Geoff Hutchison.

The DEC decided to re-ignite the uncompleted burn on Monday 21 November, two days before a severe fire danger, including high temperatures and strong winds, was forecast for the area.

“It as a deliberate decision to try and achieve full safety of the fire before Wednesday.”

Mr McNamara says whether that decision was a mistake or not will have to be judged when the bushfire is reviewed by an inquiry but he’s not shying away from the cause of the bushfire.

“We lit the fire, it was our prescribed burn, it got away and it’s caused terrible damage. We accept that, we accept responsibility for that.”

However, Mr McNamara defends the decision to re-ignite the fire last Monday.

“The decision to ignite the fire again last Monday was done with the right intentions. The consequence was terrible but the decision was the right one in terms of the circumstances last Monday.”

Mr McNamara says last week’s fire was a tragedy, but that the department has a proven record of conducting safe burns to protect the community over a long period of time.

The Environment Minister Bill Marmion has backed the Director General of the DEC saying Mr McNamara has his full support.

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