Homes not bushfire-ready

Therese ColmanAugusta Margaret River Times

The region’s volunteer firefighters says noncompliant homes, thick gardens and narrow driveways made last week’s bushfire efforts in Augusta a nightmare.

Authorities confirmed some properties could not be defended because of poor maintenance that would have put crews in danger, though they also praised owners who were bushfire-ready.

Rosa Brook brigade captain Richard Moroney said the fire safety message wasn’t getting through.

“There’s a lot of homes that are lucky they’re still there and the only reason is simply because we responded as quickly as we did, and a lot of good fortune,” he said.

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“There are still people who were trying to save their properties wearing thongs and shorts, which indicates they don’t have a plan.

“These are, unfortunately, people that the message doesn’t seem to get through to.

“If you as a homeowner don’t take the time to prepare your property, how can you ask us to risk our lives to put the effort in to save your home?”

Margaret River Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service captain Jeff Bushby said it seemed prop-erty owners thought the “bare minimum” was enough to save their properties.

“Many have the attitude that ‘it won’t happen to me’ and they do the bare minimum they need to do in order to not get a fine from the Shire,” he said.

“But in cases like the Augusta fires, the bare minimum is not enough.”

Augusta Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service captain Alex Bernhagen said some volunteers were forced to dig firebreaks during the emergency.

“Trucks have gone into (the fire zone) and put fire breaks in to stop houses from burning down,” he said.

“There was a particular area that was classed as indefensible and it would have been too risky to go in there, but to the volunteers’ credit they were still able to put firebreaks around it to prot-ect the house.”

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River community emergency services manager Chris Lloyd played down the ex-tent of homes not bushfire-ready, but noted noncompliance issues.

“This resulted in several properties being deemed unsafe for ground crews to enter and it was only possible that assets on these properties were saved due to the availability of aircraft support,” he said.

“The capacity of air attack is strongly influenced by smoke and weather conditions and should never be relied upon as an additional firefighting resource.”

Mr Lloyd said rangers would continue fire-break inspections and issue infringements when required.

He said the whole of Margaret River was a bushfire-prone area and bushfire risk management was a shared responsibility between Government agencies and private landowners.

Department of Fire and Rescue Service lower South West superintendent John Tillman said the department was “aware of concerns regarding a lack of preparedness, including driveway gates being too small for fire trucks to fit through and high fuel loads around homes”.

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