Farmers apply heat in bushfire battle

22 May, 2016 01:00 AM
Liberal MLA Murray Cowper.
Liberal MLA Murray Cowper.

THIS is one fire farmers won't put out.

It's the fire of pressure on the State Government and Premier Colin Barnett, in particular, to create a separate and independent rural bushfires authority.

Following last week's story in Farm Weekly citing a move by the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades of WA (AVBFB) to fight for an independent fire authority, the Country Regions Council of WA (CRCWA) reiterated the need for a rural fire service to replace the Department of Fire and Emergency Services' (DFES) role.

In a letter to Mr Barnett, CRCWA secretary Alice Bowen said anecdotal evidence suggested that communication between DFES and rural communities was at an all-time low.

"There is a need to separate urban firefighting and rural fire control," she said.

"Rural fire control requires an experienced executive officer to organise protective burning particularly in Crown land.

"Reduction of fuel load (is) the first step in fire control (and) there needs to be a vast improvement in co-ordination of professionals and volunteer firefighters.

"Local knowledge is vital for successful fire control and rural shires are the best organisations to co-ordinate improved relations."

While many politicians and farm leaders have told Farm Weekly they will keep their "powder dry" until after the release of the much-awaited Ferguson inquiry, headed by Victorian Country Fire Authority chief Euan Ferguson, they left little doubt about their intentions.

MLC and Liberal backbencher Nigel Hallett said last week he would urge Mr Barnett to remove red tape and create a separate country fire service to manage emergencies directed by a board made up of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Association of Volunteer Fire Fighters and the WA Local Government Association.

This week, Liberal MP Murray Cowper blasted the State government for poorly handling the clean-up of the fire-damaged Yarloop townsite.

In a sideswipe at Mr Barnett, Mr Cowper said the Premier had become a captive of his own department.

"He must be distracted because he is not satisfactorily applying himself to this matter," Mr Cowper was reported as saying.

CRCWA president Judy Hebiton said she had heard "ridiculous" stories of volunteer firefighters being told to go home by DFES-trained firefighters during recent fires.

"In one example, volunteers had bulldozers at the ready and were told to take them home," she said.

"Something has to be done to establish a rural fire service to replace DFES."

Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson

is Farm Weekly's machinery writer


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