Laziness could cause ‘catastrophic situation’

Augusta Margaret River Times
Firefighters at January’s Westbay bushfire, caused by an illegal campfire.
Camera IconFirefighters at January’s Westbay bushfire, caused by an illegal campfire.

The region’s top firefighters are “on edge” about the looming summer bushfire season and have pleaded with landowners to take action preparing their homes before summer starts.

The advice comes as the social media-savvy Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade blasted some absentee landowners last week for failing to put in the hard yards required to clear firebreaks and make rural homes safer.

The brigade posted an image of an impassable firebreak at Kilcarnup it warned could lead volunteer crews into a “death trap”.

“Unfortunately, we could highlight another bunch of similar standard hopeless firebreaks around the Wallcliffe brigade district — most of them absentee landholders or holiday homes,” the brigade said.

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“While we love the idea that city people have holiday homes in the country, we take this opportunity to remind people that holiday homes in the bush come with responsibilities and obligations to your neighbours to maintain your property to a certain standard.”

Wallcliffe warned of “a potentially catastrophic situation caused by some lazy landowners who didn’t bother to get their act together prior to bushfire season”.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River community emergency services manager Chris Lloyd told the Times the restricted burning period started on November 9, with a total fire ban starting on the prohibited burning period on December 22.

Mr Lloyd said he and senior brigade members “felt on edge” about the upcoming fire season.

“We live in a declared bushfire-prone area and we have mitigated to the capacity of our resources,” he said.

“A lot of good work has been done and we have come on in leaps and bounds in terms of taking a more strategic approach, but we can’t reduce fuel loads for the whole region.

“We desperately need property owners to come to the party and ensure their land is well-prepared for fire risk, whether it’s residential or rural, commercial or industrial, occupied or vacant, developed or undeveloped, or otherwise.”

Mr Lloyd feared property owners did not understand their collective responsibility for ensuring community safety.

“The preparedness of any one property can significantly influence the spread of fire to other neighbouring properties,” he said.

“A well-prepared property with low fuel loads and good access for fire appliances can give firefighters not only the opportunity to save both that lot, but provides potential to slow or even stop the spread of fire to neighbouring lots.

“Conversely, a poorly prepared property can accelerate a fire and cause devastating consequences for neighbours.”

Mr Lloyd said effective fire management relied on mass subscription to the fire management requirements.

“Fuel loads are high and dry this year and I urge and reiterate to you the danger of fire in this region is real and you need to be prepared,” he said.

“Prepare your property and play your part in reducing risk to yourself and your neighbours and the wider community.”

In October, the WA Government introduced tough new penalties for breaching fire bans, including $1000 on-the-spot fines.

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