Firefighters asked to 'step up'
Firefighters from the Great Southern could be required to assist in suppressing devastating fires across the State more often after a strike team from Albany and Denmark was deployed to help fight the Bullsbrook bushfire this month.
Nine volunteer firefighters from South Coast Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, Albany Volunteer Fire and Rescue and the Shire of Denmark answered the call for help on Saturday night, January 10, helping to save up to 100 homes as the fire ravaged through more than 7000ha.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services Great Southern summoned personnel who arrived at Leeuwin Barracks at 2am on the Sunday before being deployed to the fire zone six hours later for the next two days before returning on Monday night.
DFES Great Southern area officer Damian Buswell said the region’s firefighters answered the call to “step up” because of the stretching of metropolitan resources.
Mr Buswell said the changing demographics of volunteer firefighters across the State meant the deployment of regional resources to increase firefighting capabilities would be likely to continue.
“The larger fires consume resources pretty savagely,” he said.
“It’s more important for us down here as it wouldn’t take much for us to exhaust our resources.
“It’s certainly the way it will be happening in the future and it will be increasingly more of a challenge.”
The Bullsbrook fire was at its most dangerous on the Sunday afternoon after a wind change put homes and lives at risk.
The regional assistance of 100 volunteer firefighters worked through the Sunday and Monday strengthening containment lines, with the blaze eventually downgraded.
South Coast brigade member and City of Albany deputy chief bushfire control officer Darren Prior said the strike team was almost redeployed to a separate fire in Ellenbrook south of Bullsbrook while on the way home on the Monday evening.
Mr Prior said the conditions they faced were some of the toughest he had encountered.
“There was talk of us being turned around and going back,” he said.
“The areas we were in was very boggy sand, 33C to 36C heat all day and the wind generally swung in two directions, easterly in the morning and in a south-westerly direction in the afternoon made it very hard to manage.”
Shire of Denmark deputy chief bushfire control officer Ross McDougall, who attended as one of four volunteers from Denmark, said their assistance came at the right time.
“There was a number of fires leading up to the Bullsbrook fire, so they were starting to get pretty tired,” he said.
“On Monday the area we were patrolling, there was quite a number of homes that the fire had gotten quite close to.”
Mr McDougall said he was “gobsmacked” by the generosity of local ladies who baked biscuits and cakes to ensure the community effort continued around the clock.
Click here to go mobile with iNFOGO - local everywhere
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails