September 28, 2017

Government must commit regional firefighting resources

Recent fire activity in the Kimberley has highlighted the need for better firefighting infrastructure in remote areas and better resources to investigate and prevent arson, according to Shadow Emergency Services Minister Ken Baston.

Bushfires raced across more than three million hectares over the long weekend, leaving more than 90 per cent of Leopold Downs station burnt out.

Mr Baston said the McGowan Government had made no progress since being elected toward implementing the recommendations of the Ferguson Inquiry into the deadly Yarloop-Waroona fires.

“The inquiry called for a more effective plan to combat fires in our remote areas, including the establishment of rural fire services,” Mr Baston said.

“It is clear a rural fire service would have been best placed to respond to last week’s Kimberley fires.

“The scale of these types of fires is such that we cannot expect pastoralists to fight them without significant help.”

Mr Baston said the pastoral industry was a crucial part of the Kimberley economy and large-scale fires destroyed pastures that will take months to recover.

“Lost pasture leads to destocking and huge setbacks for pastoral companies which have negative knock-on effects for the whole region,” he said.

“There are also severe environmental impacts from fires of this magnitude; the weekend fires burned through an area the size of Belgium.

“That represents a huge loss of habitat for the myriad unique flora and fauna in this region.”

Mr Baston said it was also a very worrying trend that arson had been identified as a possibility in a number of the weekend fires.

“This highlights how important risk mitigation is along with adequate firefighting capabilities,” he said.

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