Funds call doused

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Firefighters watch water bombers attack a bushfire this week threatening Canberra.
Camera IconFirefighters watch water bombers attack a bushfire this week threatening Canberra. Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images, Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

The State Government will not increase or review allocation of firefighting resources in the Capes, despite a national debate about over-reliance on regional volunteerism.

The country has mourned volunteers killed fighting fires during a horror summer on the east coast, underscoring the risk undertaken by local brigades.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has no full-time paid personnel in the Capes, with State Government firefighters part of Parks and Wildlife, under the command of Environment Minister Stephen Dawson.

Mr Dawson said extra funding for mitigation — much to be undertaken by unpaid volunteers — was the key focus. Parks and Wildlife crews remained on call to fight fires Statewide as a “skilled, well trained and response-ready bushfire-detection and suppression workforce”. He said prescribed burning was the key duty to protect against bushfire.

“It’s been a challenging bushfire season so far and we expect that to continue for the rest of summer,” Mr Dawson said.

“Effective bushfire mitigation through prescribed burning is critical to reduce the devastating impacts of summer bushfires on the community and the environment.” Parks and Wildlife would continue co-ordinating with DFES and local governments “to ensure communities are protected from fire”. Those agencies, including Shire volunteers, were part of four strike teams ready for “large, complex incidents,” he said.

Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said increased resources were going into greater efforts to reduce bushfires.

“Increasing our resourcing in emergency services is not necessarily about more resources for response,” he said.

Mr Logan pointed to mitigation funding, a DFES-led fund to reduce fire risks on unallocated Crown land, Parks and Wildlife’s existing firefighters and new technology including a new large air tanker aeroplane and a line scanner, which maps fires from the air and provides real-time monitoring.

“One of the greatest resources, however, is land owners in the South West, who do the right thing and put the right fire safety measures in place on their property and have a plan about what they would do if a bushfire threatened their community,” he said.

“People have to take responsibility for their own personal risk because there can never be a firefighter on every corner or a water bomber over every house.”

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River community emergency safety manager Adam Jasper said volunteer brigades had “strong established working relationships with partner agencies including DFES and DBCA”.

“The Shire constantly reviews the efficiencies and effectiveness of our the preparation for the management of bushfires,” he said.

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