Bushfires: Worse to come
In the frontline: At Rolestone Fire Station are Karl Hunt, Glen Hickinbotham, Noel Plowman, Ryn Maughan and Beau Molton. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Perth's blackest day is yet to come and even deaths will fail to change attitudes, volunteer firefighters have warned.

From Kings Park to Darlington, the men who will be at ground zero at the weekend should the scorching heat throw up another fire say fuel loads in metropolitan hotspots are higher than ever.

And with temperatures of 37C and 39C forecast for tomorrow and Sunday, some fear the worst.

"I am deeply concerned that when the big one does hit, there will be so many unprepared people," Dave Gossage, vice-president of the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades, said. "It's going to be a bad day and it's just a matter of when."

Roleystone volunteer fire captain Noel Plowman said: "Weekends like this one coming are always a concern. If we get a fire in the right spot, it's going to happen. It's always in the back of your mind, niggling away."

A deadly mix of homeowners not knowing what to do in a catastrophic fire and fuel loads far above the six-tonne-per-hectare danger threshold has left many suburbs vulnerable. "Anywhere there is an urban-bush interface (is at risk)," Mr Gossage said.

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The Department of Fire and Emergency Services is not responsible for fuel reduction, which falls to the Department of Parks and Wildlife, councils and property owners. But the firefighters said DFES needed to take a direct role or pump more money into hazard reduction.

"Unless we start doing more hazard reduction and spend more money on mitigation, somebody is going to lose their life shortly," Bedfordale volunteer fire control officer Gavin Fancote said.

"I don't think anything will be done regardless because the attitude of DFES is to not take responsibility of the area." DFES has been asked for comment.

Shire of Mundaring deputy chief fire control officer Rod Eyre believed "tenure-blind", in which he said landowners blamed government agencies for fuel build-up and vice versa, caused people to miss the big picture.

"If people won't reduce their fuel loads, they need to be made to reduce them or pay for government agencies to do it (but) agencies aren't prepared to take that task on because it's too great a workload," Mr Eyre said.

Having fought the Roleystone fire, which burnt 71 homes, and been at Parkerville, Mr Plowman said he was amazed how so many homeowners were not prepared.

"A lot of people say 'I'm going to get that done' but time seems to get away from everybody," he said. "You always find someone on a roof with a fire virtually at their front doorstep and they're trying to clear the gutters."

The West Australian

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