An investigation by the State’s workplace safety watchdog has found the City of Albany failed to ensure the health and safety of volunteer firefighters involved in a blaze at Two Peoples Bay, which claimed the life of Department of Environment and Conservation firefighter Wendy Bearfoot last year.
Worksafe has issued the City with nine notices finding it contravened the Occupational Safety and Health Act by failing to provide firefighters with adequate equipment, training and information about fire behaviour.
The investigation found critical information about a wind change was not passed on to people working on the ground.
Documents seen by the Albany Advertiser reveal the investigation found staff had not received appropriate entrapment training, which is “critical in a burn-over situation” and “as such, may have exposed these persons to hazards of being injured in the fire ground”.
Mrs Bearfoot, 45, suffered horrific burns in the fire on October 12 when her truck was engulfed by flames. The Albany mother-of-three died three weeks later of her injuries.
Her 24-year-old colleague suffered severe burns, but survived.
Volunteers from local bushfire brigades, who are resourced by the City of Albany, and DEC employees were involved in fighting the fire.
The DEC has also been issued nine notices relating to safety equipment and training.
The Worksafe investigation found adequate personal protection equipment, such as fire blankets and heat shields in trucks, were not provided to volunteers. Worksafe has directed the City to ensure senior volunteers are given training so they are “appropriately trained and qualified” to perform their roles.
The City has also been directed to install heat shields on trucks and make sure every firefighter is given a fire blanket when on the front line of a fire ground.
The City declined to comment on the notices and the DEC did not respond before press.
South Coast Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade fire control officer Derek Jones said he was confident the fire trucks currently used by volunteers were up to the task.
“I’m pretty comfortable with the appliances we have out on the fire ground,” Mr Jones said.
“Could they be better? Yes, but you’re talking about half a million dollars.
New technology becomes available all the time, but it’s (upgrades) not going to happen overnight.”
Worksafe is due to deliver a final report on their investigation to the State coroner but it will not be made public.