WA’s Emergency Services Minister has handballed community concerns about fire safety at Gnarabup and Prevelly back to the agency which made the recent decision to close Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade’s long-standing fire shed. Minister Stephen Dawson declined to comment on questions about a letter received from the Margaret River Coastal Residents Association alarmed at the Department of Fire and Emergency Services decision, revealed by the Times last week, to shut the shed housing a fire truck used to contain many past incidents. Instead, Wallcliffe firefighters – officially transferred to DFES control at the start of February – would sprint from their base near Caves Road, despite multiple members already living in Prevelly, in the event of an emergency. “Gnarabup and Prevelly are both fire zones,” MRCRA president Adrian Wilson said. “Once a fire starts in coastal heath it is very difficult to control. “For very little cost, this unit provided extra protection and might have made the difference between a small incident and a major fire.” Other residents voiced astonishment at the decision, fearing a simple cigarette butt in dry bush on a day with a strong sea breeze could spark a major incident if waiting 20 minutes for crews to attend. Coastal residents still scarred by the 2011 bushfires, which jumped the Margaret River and threatened the White Elephant Café at Gnarabup, told the Times the Minister needed to intervene in the DFES decision. People with knowledge of the matter who were not fire brigade members said it was a bureaucratic decision not backed by an understanding of community needs. Preserve Gnarabup spokeswoman Beth Carlessi said the call made no sense when DFES had already opposed plans for a resort and de facto village development at Gnarabup because of bushfire risk concerns. “Removing an operating bushfire brigade shed and operating fire vehicle is madness,” she said. “Fires occur regularly in this area and can be fast moving. Before this shed was closed, Wallcliffe members could quickly respond to fires in the townships or surrounding national park,” Ms Carlessi said. “Fire risk is one of the key reasons Preserve Gnarabup opposes the development of a luxury housing estate and hotel which will add an extra thousand people to this area.” While the Times this week heard unconfirmed reports of a private meeting planned between the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and DFES to discuss the new arrangement – Wallcliffe was previously under the Shire’s control – Shire president Paula Cristoffanini said it was a DFES matter. However, Cr Cristoffanini noted the 2020 council decision green-lighting the transfer included a key consideration of “no loss of protection or coverage to the affected communities”. “DFES assessed their requirements during the transition process and advised the Shire they do not require the shed to maintain coverage,” she said. However, Ms Carlessi said the loss of the Prevelly base, could be “devastating” in the event of another disaster on the scale of the 2011 bushfires with an extra 1000 people on the headland.