Fears forest burns fail to  cut fuel load
Disaster warning: Control burn supporters say not enough has been done to cut the fuel load. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

Advocates of controlled burns say repeated failure by the Government to hit its prescribed burn-off targets in the State's south-west corner will lead to a "sickening" bushfire disaster.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife has conceded it will again fall well short of its annual 200,000ha target for the area between Lancelin and Denmark, mainly because of unfavourable weather conditions.

In the 11 months to June, the department burnt just over 72,000ha, or 36 per cent of the nominal target for the three south-west forest regions, which include the Perth Hills.

The effort is a considerable improvement on the same time last year when only 18,000ha had been burnt. But Bushfire Front chairman Roger Underwood said the cumulative effect on fuel loads from years of missed targets would be disastrous.

Mr Underwood, whose volunteer organisation is dedicated to improving bushfire control in WA, said the fire threat next summer in the karri forest "where they've basically done nothing for years" and southern towns such as Pemberton and Denmark would be particularly bad.

"Wherever you go in the bush, you see higher fuel loads," Mr Underwood said.

"In the southern forests like the karri it's just sickening. There is such a huge backlog, it's enormous."

DPaW fire services manager Murray Carter said 2013-14 was the first time in three years that weather conditions allowed crews to burn in the karri.

He said a couple of good burns, small in area but high in strategic value, took place around Pemberton.

"There's no single area that represents a stand-out higher risk," Mr Carter said. "There's work to be done everywhere."

Mr Carter said though he was frustrated by again missing the department's target, the safety of the community and firefighters came first.

"We're not going to put them at risk by burning on the wrong weather days," he said.

The West Australian

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