Key findings of reports into 2015 pinery bushfires released

 Key findings of reports into 2015 pinery bushfires released

14 September 2016

published by

Australia —   MORE than $15 million will be spent on upgrading fire trucks and providing better training for staff who operate SA’s emergency radio network, following reviews into the deadly 2015 Pinery blaze.

But some CFS trucks will still remain vulnerable to dangerous burnovers.

Two independent and extensive reports released on Wednesday into November 2015’s catastrophic Pinery grass fire — which claimed two lives and destroyed at least 86,000 hectares in the state’s Mid-North — highlighted a lack of “burn-over technology’’ on some of the CFS’s 1000 firefighting trucks.

Also, the Mingara Australasia report into the SA Police-operated government radio network pinpointed mistakes with operating procedures that resulted in dangerous congestion during the Pinery emergency, which caused delays in sending critical emergency information to frontline firefighters and property owners.

Emergency Services Minister Peter Malinauskas said the extra cash would equip 86 per cent of fire trucks over the period.

But CFS chief officer Greg Nettleton said he could not guarantee that all volunteers would have the protection of trucks equipped with the latest burnover technology ahead of the coming fire danger season.

Highly unusual weather conditions on November 25 sparked a grass fire of extraordinary speed and ferocity, which meant firefighters could not control the blaze before conditions changed and several crews were caught in life-threatening burnovers.

The blaze ignited while other fires burned near Clare and at Pinaroo in the Murray Mallee, near the border with Victoria, restricting the manpower that could be committed at Pinery.

“I can’t guarantee anything at all,’’ Mr Nettleton said.

“What I can guarantee is that there will be fires this summer … but I don’t know under which circumstances those fires will be burning.

“We may have fires … that may burn under catastrophic conditions, that’s where the strong leadership of our excellent controllers and crews on the trucks comes into play because they’re making decisions on the ground as the conditions change before them.’’

He said all trucks would be fitted with burnover equipment — thermal curtains, water spray curtains, and in-cabin breathing equipment — over time.

Mr Malinauskas said $9.3 million heading to the CFS would also provide for a further nine full-time trainers. Recruiting is under way.

He said funds collected through the unpopular Emergency Services Levy would provide for the improvements.

“Of course, with additional resources we are able to make investments that otherwise wouldn’t be the case,’’ he said.

“Burnovers are very, very dangerous but what we found out through the Pinery event that where trucks have been installed with modern burnover technology you dramatically reduce the risk that exists to volunteers.

“So the $9.3 million the State Government has made … is the right investment and will result in 315 trucks having the burnover technology installed over the course of the next for year and also a more rapid deployment of an additional 13 new trucks which will contain that technology.’’The report found that 80 per cent of calls over the GRN during the emergency phase of the fire were “heard and dealt with without delay’’ and the majority of the remainder were actioned within 10 seconds.

However, several took up to 40 seconds to complete because of congestion caused by too many police operators attempting to use the system.

Mr Malinauskas said an additional $154 million was earmarked to improve the GRN.

“It’s the Government’s target to ensure that 98 per cent of all calls through the Government Radio Network are dealt with within two seconds,’’ he said. “That would put us consistent with world’s best practice.’’

The Mingara report gave 21 recommendations to improve and better co-ordinated the GRN. Police, the Attorney General’s Department and the CFS have instigated a “16 point action plan” to implement the recommendations.

Earlier this month, another review found schools must better communicate with parents during a bushfire emergency and should be given more information on the progress of dangerous fires to ensure the safety of children.

The department has also recommended an education emergency centre be established when a bushfire threatens a school and for parents to be better educated on the need for student collection arrangements during an emergency.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien