Australia — Homes that are not defendable against catastrophic fires should be marked clearly so firefighters can pass them by and not risk their lives, according to one of WA’s most experienced fire captains.
Roleystone Bushfire Brigade captain Noel Plowman said too many homeowners had not heeded warnings and cleared dense bush from around their homes, leaving firefighters at risk trying to protect properties during an out-of-control blaze.
He warned there could be “no-go” areas for firefighters in certain conditions because of limited access and uncleared bush. Properties in Brookton Valley were among those that crews might not attempt to save.
“We will do what we can but our own personal safety comes into it,” he said. “I will not risk firefighters’ lives.”
Mr Plowman said a marking system was needed in WA bushfire-prone areas to clearly identify homes that were defendable and those that were not.
It would create safer conditions for firefighters who were often called to blazes in areas they were not familiar with. It would also prompt residents to make their properties fire-safe.
Mr Plowman’s warnings came ahead of hot weather forecast for this weekend and as firefighters mopped up a damaging blaze in Chidlow.
Authorities are also investigating the cause of several other recent fires around the metropolitan area.
When fire threatened the Great Southern town of Bremer Bay this month, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned residents in a subdivision that the area was “undefendable” because of accessibility and limited clearings and urged them to evacuate early.
Mr Plowman claimed about one-third of Roleystone residents, many living on steep properties surrounded by thick bush, had not done enough to make their homes fire-safe.
“Apathy has set in and people are resting on their laurels with their properties and they haven’t done a thing,” he said. “They are risking everyone’s life and property.”
Mr Plowman said local firefighters and the City of Armadale had warned many residents about the dangers and some had cleared their properties. But others had not.
“There are people in the area who don’t seem to care because their house is insured,” he said.
“They are not thinking about their neighbour. It’s another disaster waiting to happen.” The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.