Vollies in the hot seat

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Firefighters watch water bombers during the bushfire emergency outside of Canberra this week.
Camera IconFirefighters watch water bombers during the bushfire emergency outside of Canberra this week. Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Unpaid volunteers will continue to be the backbone of keeping the region safe against bushfires, with no agencies suggesting a rethink of resources in the wake of disastrous fires in the Eastern States.

Local volunteer firefighters were among hundreds nationwide called in to help with bushfires, which started in November and continued in NSW and Canberra this week. Those fires have triggered a Federal Government review of bushfire management, including the availability of resources in the face of lengthening fire seasons.

Despite acknowledging the increased risk challenges, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said no additional resources would go to Parks and Wildlife, which the Times reported had seen no additional investment since 2011.

Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan also outlined satisfaction with existing arrangements, with no moves yet to develop the proposed Department of Fire and Emergency Services station on land bought in Vasse in 2017.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and City of Busselton volunteers would continue to help Parks and Wildlife firefighters contain Capes blazes, in tandem with volunteer DFES brigades.

Both local governments told the Times they were continually reviewing bushfire preparedness and response capabilities in close discussion with each other and State partners.

“The Shire continues to reinforce that community members have an equally important role as the fire agencies in managing bushfire risk for the whole region,” Shire community emergency services manager Adam Jasper said. “The tragic fires that have been occurring in the Eastern States are a stark reminder of how dangerous bushfires can be.”

Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said the City had a “keen interest” in the outcomes of reviews pledged after the east coast fires. “Reviewing and planning for bushfire preparedness and mitigation is an ongoing process, and there will, no doubt, be important lessons to be learnt from the experiences in the Eastern States,” he said.

Mr Henley said a career fire station at Vasse would be welcome, and he cast doubt whether the region’s mitigation funding was adequate.

With at least two Margaret River brigades seeking a transfer to DFES management, the Shire outlined no proposed changes to staffing levels.

“It is our view volunteerism and volunteers will always be a critical component in bushfire prevention as well as response,” Mr Jasper said.

The Shire and the City asked residents to comply with firebreak notices and restrictions.

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