Augusta-Margaret River and City of Busselton firefighters on guard with hot summer forecast

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Wallcliffe Fire Services Brigade members John Alferink, Ian Rooke and Grahame Brown at a recent training session preparing for what could be a tough bushfire season.
Camera IconWallcliffe Fire Services Brigade members John Alferink, Ian Rooke and Grahame Brown at a recent training session preparing for what could be a tough bushfire season. Credit: Sean Blocksidge

Firefighters are preparing for what they fear might be a horror bushfire season for the Capes region.

The forecast looms as Augusta-Margaret River and Busselton firefighters were recently deployed to fight bushfires to the north and in NSW.

Concerns about weather conditions, hastened by an El Nino weather system to Australia’s north, had also brought forward the prohibited burning season five weeks early in the Augusta-Margaret River shire.

The call was made this week, banning campfires, pits and refuse burn-offs of any type.

The City of Busselton also said no permits were being issued and bans on fires during high risk days meant the same restrictions were effectively in place.

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson also bolstered the call this week in urging property owners across the region to make sure they were “bushfire ready”.

Wallcliffe Fire Services Brigade voiced concerns about this summer on social media, saying feedback from the top was yet another reason for residents to be prepared.

“We’re getting a real sense from the leadership team this could be a bad fire season,” a brigade spokesperson said.

“All the weather indicators (are) suggesting we are several weeks ahead of normal conditions.”

Fire chiefs, including Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm, backed up the brigade’s assessment.

“The seasonal conditions are roughly five to eight weeks ahead of where they would typically be,” Mr Klemm told the Times.

“Bushfire season has arrived in WA much earlier this year.

“With warm and dry conditions increasing the risk of bushfires, and the prospect the southern bushfire season could be more severe than in recent years, we are urging the community to prepare their properties now.”

The DFES chief said 93 per cent of WA was considered bushfire-prone areas.

He pointed residents towards the My Bushfire Plan app and website for guidance.

“Sit down with your family and agree on your course of action if a fire starts near you,” he said.

Wallcliffe also urged residents to clear all debris and flammable items stored around homes, to service water points, prepare personal pumps, clear grasses and fire breaks and make sure all access points to homes were cleared for emergency crews.

“This stuff applies even if you live in the more suburban areas of Gnarabup/ Prevelly and townsites,” the brigade said.

“All of these areas are surrounded by bush, and ember attack is highly likely during a bushfire.”

Augusta-Margaret River Shire community emergency services manager Adam Jasper said drier than average conditions and a hot summer forecast required vigilance from residents.

City of Busselton Mayor Phill Cronin told the Times local firefighters had held emergency preparedness workshops around Dunsborough in a “first of its kind” for the South West due to bushfire concerns.

“With the predicted seasonal outlook for the summer anticipated to include periods of high temperatures of prolonged duration, combined with low rainfall over the past three months, the City is preparing for an associated increase in bushfire risk in our region,” he said.

Mr Dawson said recent fires showed the importance of being ready, with just 15 minutes required via the State Government’s preparation website.

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