The West

Wash-up report reveals real story
Volunteer Bushfire Brigade's Gary Bennett and Dave Paris

Special Report: One Year On from the Bushfires

Wash-up report reveals real story

An internal Shire of Augusta-Margaret River report into last November’s bushfires at Prevelly and Kilcarnup has confirmed local volunteer firefighters responded to early warning signs without State Government involvement and their fast and professional response may have averted a greater disaster.

The wash-up report, separate to the Noetic Solutions report belatedly released last week, reveals many local fireys adopted “freelancing mode” on the second day of the fires as relief efforts went into limbo.

The report confirms serious shortcomings including:

• DEC had not personally notified Shire fire controllers about prescribed burns for some time prior to the emergency.

• Sector commanders were not allocated to growing fire zones as the fire spread and few sector commanders possessed local knowledge.

• Radio chatter, missing channels and communications black spots wreaked havoc with emergency efforts.

• Moving the incident control to the old SES building was a “disaster” without proper communications or computer facilities.

• Not enough volunteers were trained in structural firefighting methods and heavy vehicle driving.

• There were equipment problems, inadequate masks including some that melted in the heat and not enough helmet torches for night work.

• 12-hour shifts were difficult for many volunteers, especially those who came from regular working duties.

• Uncertainty around refuelling arrangements.

• Community preparations for bushfire emergencies were described as apathetic in the report, with obstacles on fire tracks including BMX jumps.

• Inadequate direction from DEC to local crews, including shortfalls in local knowledge in “unrealistic instructions” to some brigades, such as Augusta.

• Loose volunteers were “ignored” unless they were part of full crews prepared for action.

• Volunteers were roadblocked by police officers despite full uniform and sirens.

• Thorough mopping up around houses was a key recommendation to stop future losses from re-ignition.

• Only DEC vehicles were tracked on the incident white boards, leading to inexact details for vehicles on ground.

• Some brigades had more volunteers waiting to go into action than available vehicles, which frustrated volunteer efforts.

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