Worry over fuel loads on Margaret River fringe

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Volunteer fireys have warned about increasing fuel loads on the coast ravaged by the 2011 bushfires.
Camera IconVolunteer fireys have warned about increasing fuel loads on the coast ravaged by the 2011 bushfires. Credit: Wallcliffe VBFB

With another summer coming, a bushfire safety group has again raised serious concerns about fuel loads surrounding the Margaret River township.

The Bushfire Front group, which has members in Perth as well as the in the shire, says thick forest and bush on the town’s fringe needs urgent action.

The comments come as Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan warned the 2020-2021 bushfire season would be “high threat” due to weather conditions and COVID-19 requirements.

Front spokesman Roger Underwood told the Times agencies which shared responsibility, including the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, must make greater effort to address the risks, already highlighted in the Shire’s bushfire-risk management plan. “We are gravely concerned about the bushfire vulnerability of, in particular, Margaret River,” Mr Underwood said.

“The town and surrounding district are one of the three highest bushfire-risk areas in WA.

“A wildfire on an extreme day will be unstoppable before immense damage is done.”

The group wanted the Shire to develop “a comprehensive evacuation plan” for the town, for residents to do their part in fuel reduction around townsite homes, and for residents “to get firmly behind Parks and Wildlife, DFES and the vollie brigades to support fuel reduction, especially in bushland close to residential areas”.

Mr Underwood also took aim at conservationists opposed to fuel reduction because of concerns about native flora and fauna.

“We support the need to conserve WA biodiversity, just as we want to see lives, community assets, tourist attractions, rural businesses and infrastructure protected,” he said.

Shire president Ian Earl said weather conditions were against volunteers seeking to reduce loads north of town last year.

He said further work was planned, including around Wharncliffe Mill, and south of Carters Road but burns “need the right conditions”.

COVID-19 restrictions also played a part in reducing worker availability, Cr Earl said.

“We are ready to go as soon as we can and north of town is a priority,” he said.

Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said the Shire’s 12-month mitigation strategy included work focused on the townsite.

“The Shire continues to work closely with DBCA and DFES to achieve outcomes in areas of shared responsibility,” he said.

The Forest Products Commission, which manages land on Margaret River’s northern fringe, said it gave more than $2 million to Parks and Wildlife to manage fuel reduction in the South West each year. Its 2016 fire-management plan found fire risks were “manageable with appropriate mitigation measures”.

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