Shire must get serious on fire risks: residents

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The phone tower on Jindong-Treeton Road.
Camera IconThe phone tower on Jindong-Treeton Road.

Residents in Rosa Brook have flagged serious concerns that firebreaks and other safety hazards are not getting adequate treatment.

With a total fire ban in place this summer, a core group of residents who were not fire brigade members told the Times they were frustrated at perceived Shire of Augusta-Margaret River inaction.

Among the locations in question were a telecommunications tower on Jindong-Treeton Road and a farm- house on the corner of Arthur Road previously earmarked for development as a reception centre.

The residents’ criticism was not levelled against the Rosa Brook Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade, members of which were not allowed to respond to inquiries from the Times because of the Shire’s media policy.

The residents asked not to be named because they had already argued their case to the Shire to no effect.

A Rosa Brook farmer told the Times volunteer firefighters were also worried about the fire risks, but because the sites were private land, brigades could not address the fuel loads on their own.

He believed firefighters would refuse to enter neglected properties.

“This is an absolute disgrace down here,” he said.

“There’s a few of us wondering why some can get away with it and we can’t.”

Another resident said if a bushfire occurred in Rosa Brook, volunteers faced the agonising choice between letting homes burn or risking their own lives building emergency firebreaks on the run.

He said it was not fair on volunteers and their families, and all property owners had to control fuel loads and not be forced through legal mechanisms to comply with the law.

The residents believed unattended fuel loads on the private property were exacerbated by legal proceedings between the Shire and the Arthur Road site owner.

Shire sustainable development director Dale Putland declined to provide details about the Shire’s legal action, but confirmed the property was subject to a development application refused by the planning department late last year. “The owner has sought review in the State Administrative Tribunal, where it is awaiting programming orders,” Dr Putland said.

“Compliance to the firebreak notice is not a relevant consideration for the assessment of the development application or the SAT review.”

Shire community emerg-ency services manager Adam Jasper said the phone tower was also on private property.

“Rangers conduct private property inspections throughout fire season, the results of which are a matter held only between the Shire and the individual property owner,” he said.

“Compliance action is pursued in the event of properties not meeting preparedness requirements as set out in the Shire’s annual Firebreak Notice.”

Mr Jasper said anyone with concerns about a perceived fire risk was “strongly encouraged” to contact the Shire on 9780 5255 or at amr shire@amrshire.wa.gov.au.

Telstra was contacted for comment.

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