Australia– The suggestion that Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services should take control of the state’s volunteer bushfire brigades has been criticised by the volunteers and Liberal government MPs.
DFES recommended the change in its submission to the independent inquiry into the bushfire at Yarloop in the state’s south in January, which killed two men, destroyed 181 properties and burnt more than 69,000 hectares.
WA is the only state where volunteer bushfire brigades are managed by local governments.
Fire Commissioner Wayne Gregson has reportedly said the relationship between the two was sometimes not good.
Association of Volunteer Bushfire Brigades president Dave Gossage told ABC radio he was not surprised by Mr Gregson’s view.
“They (DFES) believe that the centralised model is the best model but when you work in a command-type environment that works on issuing instructions, that’s always going to be their position,” Mr Gossage said.
He said volunteer firefighters were one of the first groups to adopt the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System, but government departments were slower to get on board.
“The unified approach that he (Mr Gregson) referred to is already there if they understand and use the AIIMS system as it was intended,” Mr Gossage said.
He said the commissioner’s call to leave bushfire risk management in the hands of volunteers but take control of their response activities removed their only form of government funding under the Emergency Services levy.
Liberal MPs took to Twitter to reject the commissioner’s call, with the member for the regional seat of Murray-Wellington, Murray Cowper, saying: “Haven’t seen hide nor hair of Wayne Gregson since Yarloop. Now he wants to set policy!!”
Government whip in the Legislative Council, Phil Edman, wrote: “Good luck with this move!”.
Mr Gregson was sought for comment.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan called on the state government to “come out and explain what’s going on”.
“Is this the government’s plan or isn’t it?” he said.
Mr McGowan declined to comment on the merits of Mr Gregson’s idea until the inquiry hands down its findings, but backed him up in saying the capability of local government-managed firefighting capability varied across the state.
“But I have the utmost respect for all of our firefighters no matter where they are.”
Premier Colin Barnett said Mr Gregson made a valid point, but whether his suggestion would be adopted was yet to be determined.
“Every time there is a major fire, and sadly that’s every year, we get this debate between the role of career firefighters and volunteer firefighters,” Mr Barnett told reporters.
“We need both. We need their commitment, we need their bravery.
“But there’s always problems about the way in which they work or don’t quite work well enough together.”Students at Mississippi State University successfully tested a new chemical that could potentially stop wildfires from ruining homes on Saturday.
Anna Barker came up with the idea after she saw news footage of a man trying to save his house with a garden hose.
So we just created a system that would release this polymer in an event of a wildfire, and hopefully protect any kind of residential property if a wildfire were coming through, she said.
Barker met with several engineers about the idea, and chose to partner with Kagen Crawford on the project.
Engineers and business partners coincide in the real world, Crawford said. So this really brings the university feel of every major being separated to the real world of every major works together to make something happen.
The team created a sprinkler system to go on a dog house. Then, the chemical was sprayed onto the house. They used a blowtorch on the wood, and the house did not catch on fire.
“We’re super excited it didn’t catch fire and that we think it’s actually going to work,” Barker said.
A diluted version of the chemical was used during the test. The actual polymer will be three times as strong.
If the chemical does become a household item, homeowners wont have to worry about it hurting the environment or themselves.
It is nontoxic, noncorrosive, and biodegradable. It is OCEA and EPA approved and the only fire polymer substance to ever be approved by the U.S. Forestry Service, Barker said.
The Starkville Fire Department watched over the trial run. The team thanked the city for letting them use their services.
Graphic Design major McKinley Ranager is also helping the team with promotions.
They also demonstrated the chemicals ability in other ways throughout the day. They soaked their arms with the substance and attempted to light it on fire. They also soaked one piece of cardboard with it. Then, lit that piece and another on fire. Only the cardboard without the substance burned.
Barker has had this idea for around a year. Between research and development, the engineering department, the chemistry department, and other supporters, the polymer is now ready for testing. She credits them for helping her idea come to life.
“We were a little nervous,” Barker said. “Working with student grant funding and doing everything small scale, you’re a little bit nervous on if this tiny prototype can really pertray what a large scale system would be like.”
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