Margaret River’s 2011 bushfire disaster has done little to change residents’ attitude towards fire preparedness, according the South West’s top fire officer.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services lower South West superintendent John Tillman told the Times many locals hadn’t made any effort to fire proof their properties for this year’s fire season.
“Although many people have done the right thing and initiated preparations on their homes such as firebreaks, clearing, pruning and general maintenance, unfortunately there are some in the community who have not yet prepared, ” Mr Tillman said.
“Volunteer brigades and DFES personnel in the Capes region are concerned that there are still many areas where people have not taken any action to improve property preparedness since the Margaret River fires.”
“In fact there are some properties that will not be safe for fire fighters to even enter or attempt to defend, ” the veteran fire controller said.
Shire community development and safety manager Paul Gravett said although the majority of residents had complied with fire risk reduction specifications as set out in the 2012-13 Fuel Hazard Reduction and Firebreak Notice, 341 properties were in breach of the requirements.
Property owners who made efforts to comply with the regulations once notified by their breach were issued with a warning while those who made no attempt were issued with infringements.
“To date 82 infringements have been issued along with a …notice requiring landowners make their property compliant within 21 days, ” Mr Gravett said.
“If the landowner fails to comply with this work order within the timeframe allotted, an external contractor will be engaged to undertake the works at the landowner’s expense.”
Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade captain Brett Trunfull said although the majority of residents had taken steps to improve their fire preparedness, some homeowners simply didn’t care about the state of their property or weren’t aware of the dangers presented by lax maintenance.
“There’s no doubt there are still people who haven’t taken heed from the fire of 2011, but the majority of people have made marked improvements, ” Mr Trunfull said.
Absentee landowners and rental residents were generally the most ill-prepared, Mr Trunfull said.
Mr Gravett said the Shire was working with key stakeholders to educate property owners about fire hazards and was striving for 100 per cent fire compliance.
Mr Trunfull said district brigades were making a concerted effort to encourage neighbours of hazardous properties to confront their owners and ask them to improve conditions.
He said it would take a collective effort by the Shire, community and volunteer brigades to ensure the region was suitably prepared to tackle another major bushfire.