DFES 'ignored' local know-how

22 Jan, 2016 01:00 AM
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THE Waroona community has called for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to incorporate local fire brigades and knowledge after the South West bushfires this month.

Waroona resident Andrew Johnson said from his experience of the fire, he believed DFES had little knowledge of the local area and saw no need to use local knowledge to its advantage when tackling it.

"There is no way DFES has a way of incorporating local knowledge, they seem to think they know everything because it's on a map," he said.

"I think this fire has highlighted the issues, yes they have done a good job, they have all the right tools and equipment but there are a few things missing.

"They don't know how to integrate the local knowledge and they don't know how to integrate the local resources.

"It is the integration process, they could have delegated 20 local fire areas personnel, leading small crews of three or five units to do the job – but instead they pushed the local brigades to the side or instructed them not to go off road.

"We have a wealth of knowledge here that wasn't used."

Mr Johnson said locals were able to use machinery to assist and people were willing to help but they were told to stand down.

"Firefighters were told to wait for the fire to get to the road and not enter paddocks to fight the fire," he said.

"I have had no issues with a fireman on the ground, they were all respectful and open, they said they simply couldn't do it.

"They have gone too far on the side of caution in some regards."

Mr Johnson said while DFES seemed too cautious in some ares, the police and emergency services seemed to "go over the top" when it came to road blocks.

Mr Johnson said people were threatened with arrest and were told they could not get through, even if families were left behind.

"Fathers left their properties to get fuel for the firefighting unit and generator and get supplies, but were told they couldn't go back in to their wives and children.

"They were told they had to get permits, which took about three hours to get.

"It put more lives at risk.''

The department was asked to comment on its policies but they had not responded before deadline.

DFES deputy commissioner Lloyd Bailey said DFES works with local volunteers in a number of areas at various levels of the organisation.

"The volunteer associations have a direct line of communication at a strategic level with the Commissioner and Chief Superintendents," he said.

"They also have a voice in advisory committees and forums.

"During incidents, volunteers form part of the incident management team and also provide advice to the State Operations Centre."

Mr Bailey said a thorough review of the Waroona fires would be conducted.

"The review is a positive opportunity for everyone to have their say about the Waroona fires," he said.

"The community, including firefighters, farmers and others, are encouraged to take part in this process.

"DFES welcomes this review and is committed to implementing any changes that will improve the State’s response to future bushfires."

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