Fire report lashes landowners
Heat on landowners: Firefighters tackle the Parkerville blaze. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Landowners refused to allow prescribed burning on their properties at the local council's expense before 57 homes were destroyed in Stoneville and Parkerville in January, the official incident review reveals.

The State Emergency Management Committee's review chronicled a much-improved performance by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and praised the Shire of Mundaring for its prescribed burning efforts.

Continuing a shift in the focus of bushfire reform from authorities to landowners, the report comes after a push by DFES to compel all tenure-holders to be legally accountable for fuel loads.

Ignited about 11am on Sunday, January 12 by a fallen power pole on private property, the fire caused the evacuation of 1386 residents and at one point threatened 450 homes before it was brought under control.

The SEMC report, tabled in State Parliament, found the shire made a "significant effort to reduce fuel loads in the fire zone" but the blaze still took off in long-unburnt forest along Jane Brook.

Most of the creek system in the burnt area was private property, requiring landowners to grant the shire access to carry out fuel burning.

"This has previously been a problem elsewhere in the shire, when landowners have not supported entry on to their lands of the conduct of burns, even at the shire's expense," the report said.

It quoted the Mundaring Voluntary Fire Control Officers and Captains Group complaining that "many of the property owners did not comply with the (shire's) regulated bush fire risk reduction requirements".

The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades told the review not enough was being done "to ensure that adequate measures by individual property owners had been implemented".

Only 60 per cent of shire residents reported having a bushfire plan. "The Parkerville-Stoneville-Mt Helena event has not generated the public outrage and expressions of blame that emerged in the aftermath of the 2011 Perth Hills fire and the Victorian Fires of 2009," it found.

Efforts to emphasise landowners' obligations included WA's first television media campaign, the $1 million "Are you ready" advertisements fronted by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.

The West Australian

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