Warning as firefighters head east

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Denmark’s Marcus Owen, Denmark’s Kelly Macleod, Plantagenet’s Kathleen Thomas, Deputy Chief bushfire control officer from Denmark Bryce Edwards and DFES Superintendent Wayne Green.
Camera IconDenmark’s Marcus Owen, Denmark’s Kelly Macleod, Plantagenet’s Kathleen Thomas, Deputy Chief bushfire control officer from Denmark Bryce Edwards and DFES Superintendent Wayne Green. Credit: Picture: ABC Great Southern

As volunteer firefighters are deployed from Albany to battle the unprecedented bushfires in the Eastern States, the head of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services in the Great Southern has issued a warning: it could happen to us.

DFES Great Southern Superintendent Wayne Green said if anyone thought the Albany region was immune from the tragedies unfolding in NSW and Queensland, they did not appreciate the bushfire risk in WA’s south-west.

His warning comes as volunteers from the Great Southern respond to an SOS from the east to help fight the bushfires.

Volunteer bushfire officer Cameron Golding has already returned to Albany and another four are on the other side of the country fighting to save lives and homes.

Eastern States firefighting authorities have been calling out for help from across the nation for the past week, as they battle blazes which have claimed three lives and destroyed more than 150 homes.

Another round of volunteers from the region is set to leave this week.

Supt Green said the local volunteers would be dropped and driven to locations where they could help strengthen containment lines.

“It has been horrific over there,” Supt Green said.

“These guys and girls know what they are going over to help with but I don’t know if you can truly appreciate the ferocity of the situation until you are embedded into the operations and community affected. These fires are not what you would call a bushfire, they are what you would call wildfires.

“They would be keeping the community and everyone there as safe as they can, waiting for conditions to ease. ”

The four volunteers over there now — Denmark deputy chief bushfire control officer Bryce Edwards, Denmark volunteers Kelly Macleod and Marcus Owen, and Plantagenet volunteer Kathleen Thomas — will be deployed for seven days.

Another six from the region have been nominated to leave in the next deployment.

Supt Green said the conditions meant those asked to help had to be fit and proficient at fighting a fire without water.

“Because they have limited water supplies due to the drought conditions over there, the majority is dry fire line construction and backburning,” he said. “They have been in drought for over 12 months and the bushland is so dry, so there is no moisture at all.

“They are all on their feet walking up and down big country, steep terrain and they are creating fire trails with hand tools and that sort of thing.”

Supt Green said that while the Great Southern should be proud of its volunteers heading over to help, the situation should also serve as a wake-up call.

“If there is anyone in the community that thinks we can’t experience what is currently occurring on the east coast this summer, they truly do not appreciate the bushfire risk in WA ... if we experience these type of conditions, it is not going to be a matter of crews getting in and putting these fires out — it is a matter of keeping people out of the path,” he said.

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