Resilience grows from the ashes

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
The Napier home which was destroyed.
Camera IconThe Napier home which was destroyed. Credit: Albany Aerial Imaging

Reducing the reliance on firefighting resources and building more resilient communities has been a silver lining from the catastrophic May bushfires, 12 months on.

Out of the flames from the unprecedented number of blazes which stretched firefighting resources this time last year has come a greater appreciation of the dangers facing residents in vulnerable suburbs, according to the City of Albany.

Six new Bushfire Ready groups have been established since a fire event described as “the perfect storm” raged across the district.

The major review of last May’s bushfires by the Office of Bushfire Management found some residents had developed an “unrealistic reliance on emergency services” when more than 50 blazes —many at emergency level — stretched resources.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

A volunteer firefighter mops up an escaped private burn in off Norwood Road in King River.
Camera IconA volunteer firefighter mops up an escaped private burn in off Norwood Road in King River. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Most of the bushfires which threatened lives and homes were escaped private burns and “dormant fires” fanned by strong, warm winds in excess of 120km/h. In the review, some volunteer brigade members expressed concerns regarding absentee landowners and their lack of vigilance.

City of Albany community emergency services manager Brendan Gordon said the six new Bushfire Ready groups established with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services had been set up at Torbay Hill.

He said the new groups were building bushfire resilience to react in case of another emergency.

“It really starts with the individual,” he said.

“Their preparation and planning for their own safety fire safety starts in August and September so clearing vegetation, getting prepared, knowing what they’re going to do and have a written plan and talking to their neighbours.

“The residents and community members really need to understand there is a limited amount of fire trucks and they shouldn’t expect fire trucks to attend on their properties.

“When they can we definitely will because our goals are protection of life and property.”

Last year’s fires occurred during an unrestricted burning period. The permit period in the south-west sector of Albany was extended this year to May 14, having previously finished on April 30.

“We haven’t had the issues we had this time last year at the moment. I think the residents are a bit more careful with what they are doing,” Mr Gordon said.

“I think that was proven this year that we haven’t had the amount of fires getting out of control and residents are a bit more resilient.”

The house in Napier destroyed by fire.
Camera IconThe house in Napier destroyed by fire. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

DFES Great Southern acting Supt Derek Jones said the fires had been the “impetus” for Bushfire Ready groups also being established in Denmark.

He said while it was acknowledged burning off was important for landowners in reducing fuel loads on their properties, it was crucial the weather forecast was taken into consideration.

“The risk period is quite extensive,” he said.

“At any time we have to fully extinguish our fires.”

To establish a Bushfire Ready Group contact DFES on 9845 5000.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails