Summer forecast puts Capes region on high alert for bushfires

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
WA Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm.
Camera IconWA Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The Capes region was officially put on high alert for bushfires this week.

Locations including Busselton and Margaret River were cited in the summer alert as authorities fear high temperatures could make for a horror bushfire season.

Coming after warnings about increased bushfire risk and a spate of serious fires to the north, the official alert status stemmed from a national outlook released this week by State emergency services departments, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council.

The BOM’s long-range forecast for January to March shows a high chance of above-average temperatures in all parts of the State.

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Authorities were also making plans for emergencies, which included logistical support and evacuation readiness, while heatwaves were also expected to test residents as well as the power grid.

Briefing the media on Monday, Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said he was confident about the preparations, with the new overarching Commonwealth disaster agency helping to improve communications with the States and Territories.

“We go into this – the first significant bushfire season since Black Summer – with a more unified approach from governments,” Senator Watt said.

WA Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson last week said the State’s full aerial firefighting fleet was now ready for action.

The Times understands the State’s large air tanker would be permanently based in Busselton throughout the season, along with two Black Hawk helicopters activated three weeks early because of bushfire concerns.

“While WA is experiencing a high-risk bushfire season, our emergency services have been preparing for months, including training and bringing forward key resources like the aerial fleet to keep the community safe,” Mr Dawson said.

“Highly skilled and experienced career and volunteer personnel from DFES and DBCA will be supported on the fireground by a fleet of advanced and agile aircraft that provide aerial suppression, containment and intelligence.”

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the aerial fleet would be “integral” to firefighting strategies this summer — especially in difficult-to-reach areas.

“The steps we have taken this year should send a strong message to the community that WA is facing an unusually long and dangerous bushfire season, and everyone needs to be prepared,” he said.

“It is very concerning that only just over 1 per cent of households have a recorded bushfire plan and I ask everyone to take the time to sit down with your family now and agree on your course of action using the My Bushfire Plan platform.”

In the Capes region, local governments had already moved to put fire restrictions in place and brigades have carried out training exercises in preparation.

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