2012’s devastating Margaret River and Milyeannup fires have validated the Department of Environment and Conservation’s concern that it will not be able to manage more than two simultaneous, large and sustained fires in the South-West.
DEC director General, Keiran McNamara has warned that the State still faces a significant bushfire threat this year despite “being better prepared for 2012-13 due to better resourcing and improved interagency arrangements”.
Mr McNamara said the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge had a heightened risk of bush fire this season. He said this was mainly because land not managed by DEC was ill-prepared for bushfire threat.
FESA District manager for the Capes, Peter Stewart admitted few local landowners were sufficiently prepared for the upcoming fire season.
"It is a shared responsibility. Residents can’t rely on fire service agencies to attend their property if there is a fire," he said.
"Property owners need to prepare now."
In Mr McNamara’s submission to the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee Inquiry into the State’s Preparedness for the 2012/13 Fire Season he said ageing career fire-fighters and the lack of sufficiently experienced staff to fill senior roles represented risks that need to be addressed.
Inadequate and dated scientific research on fire behaviour in various fuel types in a drying climate was another area of concern.
DEC’s Blackwood District manager Greg Mair said additional government funding of $5.8 million dollars allocated for the 2012-13 bushfire season was a welcome relief.
"In excess of $30 million will be rolled out to DEC in the next five years," Mr Mair said.
"This extra resourcing has increased staffing capacity dedicated to fire management in preparation for this summer."
Mr Mair said the extra funding had boosted the Blackwood District fire-fighting crew by nine to 50 firefighters.
"Eleven fire-fighters are based at Margaret River, of which three are new recruits, plus we are in the process of employing three additional officers – two of which will be based locally."