Australia– A specialist West Australian bushfire authority could have helped save the devastated town of Yarloop, a bushfire expert says.
WA will consider establishing a statewide rural fire service, in line with expected recommendations from a report on January’s bushfires at Yarloop, which was virtually wiped out.
The blaze killed two elderly men and destroyed 181 properties, including 162 houses and the heritage-listed Yarloop Workshops.
The report by a former Victorian Country Fire Service chief, Euan Ferguson, calls for WA to follow NSW, Victoria and South Australia in having a specialist body to handle bushfire management outside the metropolitan area, The West Australian reported on Tuesday.
Bush Fire Front chairman Roger Underwood said an independent, professionally resourced Country Fire Authority-type organisation was needed but added that in the short term, it would not have changed the result for the people of Yarloop.
“Had they been around long enough, the answer would be yes,” Mr Underwood told 6PR radio.
“A Country Fire Authority in conjunction with the Department of Parks and Wildlife could easily have ensured that the bushland through which that fire burnt before it hit Yarloop had been subjected to fuel reduction burning, which would have made the fire less intense, easier to suppress and the town would have been made more resilient.”
Mr Underwood said authorities needed to properly manage the bush and adequately prepare country towns and settlements for fire.
“That just wasn’t being done,” he said.
Mr Underwood added that an independent authority would need to have the final say on fuel load mitigation and general preparedness.
Local governments were responsible for making sure residential areas were properly prepared for bushfires, but they had not been doing their job, he said.
The Bush Fire Front advocates better management of fire in WA to reduce the impact and severity of bushfire damage.
Premier Colin Barnett is due to release the Ferguson report on Thursday in the town of Harvey, near Yarloop.