The West

Fire safety upgrades urgent: widower

The husband of a firefighter who died after being burnt in a blaze near Albany has called for immediate safety upgrades on equipment after Worksafe revealed deficiencies in the training, trucks and equipment of some fire crews.

Garry Bearfoot, whose wife Wendy died after her truck was engulfed in the October 12 blaze at Two Peoples Bay, said he believed the Department of Environment and Conservation had not fitted trucks with heat shields, which contributed to his wife's death.

His wife, a DEC employee, had been trained to seek shelter in her truck from a burn-over but there had been no protection.

DEC refused to say yesterday whether Mrs Bearfoot's truck had a heat shield.

The 45-year-old mother of three died in hospital from burns three weeks after she and other firefighters were trapped when strong winds changed direction.

The truck Mrs Bearfoot was in would not start as they tried to escape, forcing her and a colleague to run to another vehicle for shelter.

It is believed a window in that truck shattered, forcing all four firefighters inside to leave it.

Witnesses said three of the firefighters sheltered under a blanket but it is believed Mrs Bearfoot was more seriously burnt when she became separated from the others.

A 24-year-old DEC colleague had burns to 17 per cent of her body.

The State's workplace safety watchdog found the City of Albany failed to ensure the health and safety of volunteer firefighters by not providing adequate equipment, training and information about fire behaviour.

Worksafe issued directives to the city on improvements it must make, including ensuring volunteers in senior roles were appropriately trained.

It has also issued DEC with notices to improve safety equipment, training and communications.

Mr Bearfoot welcomed the Worksafe orders requiring the city to install heat shields and provide fire blankets for every firefighter, but said action had to be taken quickly.

"I don't want anyone else to go through what I have," he said.

"I sat for three weeks with Wendy and for 10 hours when we turned the machine off to wait for her to die and I wish that on nobody.

"I understand why some of these firefighters don't want to fight fires anymore."

The West Australian

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