Australia– VOLUNTEER firefighters want the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) stripped of responsibility for major bushfires, slamming its handling of the Waroona-Yarloop disaster.
WA Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association (VFRSA) said an immediate or timelier escalation of firefighting forces would have greatly reduced the impact and spread of the fire, which was primarily managed by Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
In its submission to an inquiry into the blaze, which killed two people and destroyed 171 homes in Yarloop on January 7, VFRSA said its biggest concern was lack of community preparedness. But VFRSA, which represents 2700 volunteers and about 100 brigades, said DPaW:
LEFT Yarloop before the fire reached the town, abandoning the residents on the oval. FAILED to set up water supplies or engage in any fire suppression of what was essentially a grass fire. TRUCKS were seen parked up and not being used during firefighting activities. DIDNT follow a management pre-plan prepared just a week or two earlier.
DPaW were in charge of the incident, with DPaW trucks left to defend Yarloop (which they had done a pre plan for) with the assistance of one Bush Fire Service (brigade), the association wrote.
They failed to set up water supplies or engage in any fire suppression of what was essentially a grass fire as it approached the town with an ember attack.
The people in Yarloop were very lucky to have a number of VFRSA (and one Bush Fire Service) brigade assist with the fire or the remainder of the town would be lost and a lot more lives.
The VFRSA called for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to take control of all Level 3 incidents that involve property or life.
We believe DPaW personnel do not have the appropriate knowledge or training in urban fire, which led to FRS (Fire and Rescue Service) not being called into Yarloop until after the fire hit Yarloop, members wrote.
VFRSA executive officer Jodie Neuzerling said it was the associations preference that DPaW firefighting services and responsibility for the Bush Fire Service be brought under DFES.
It would be naive to state that Yarloop could have been saved as no one could have foreseen the conditions that evolved. However, it is possible that losses may have been limited if DPaW had requested assistance from DFES earlier. We will never know, Ms Neuzerling said.
A DPaW spokeswoman said it would not comment on individual submissions while the inquiry was underway and it looked forward to the reports recommendations.
Special inquirer Euan Fergusons report was handed to the Public Sector Commissioner on Friday.