Create an independently funded and administered Rural Fire Service in Western Australia
Recently, former Victorian Country Fire Authority Chief Officer Euan Ferguson delivered his findings into the disastrous Waroona/Yarloop fire that occurred in January 2016 - a fire that saw the almost total destruction of the Yarloop townsite and the death of two men.
In this report, Mr Ferguson makes the following recommendation:
Recommendation 15: The State Government to create a Rural Fire Service to enhance the capability for rural fire management and bushfire risk management at a State, regional and local level. The proposed Rural Fire Service will:
- be established as a separate entity from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services or, alternatively, be established as a sub-department of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services;
- have an independent budget;
- be able to employ staff;
- have a leadership structure which, to the greatest degree possible, is regionally based and runs the entity;
- be led by a Chief Officer who reports to the responsible Minister on policy and administrative matters; and to the Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Services during operational and emergency response;
- have responsibilities and powers relating to bushfire prevention, preparedness and response; and
- operate collaboratively with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Local Government and volunteer Bush Fire Brigades.
(Reframing Rural Fire Management: Report of the Special Inquiry into the January 2016 Waroona Fire: Volume 1 Report, page 258. Available: here)
So far, the response for the Government of Western Australia has been guarded, with Minister Joe Francis stating that:
"I'm not going to knock the idea. I think the idea has got merit," he said.
"However, I don't want people to think that a rural fire service is a magical silver bullet.
"They had it in New South Wales, they had it in Victoria, they had it in South Australia last fire season and they had just as catastrophic fires."
(ABC News 21st June 2016: here)
As concerned citizens, we need to remind the Minister that we're not after a silver bullet, and we understand this change will not be implemented overnight. Rather, we need the Government to make a concrete commitment to this change and provide a firm timeline to prevent a repeat of Waroona/Yarloop in future fire seasons. This change is a generational opportunity - we must not miss it.
Premier Barnett and Minister Francis, commit to an independently administered and funded Rural Fire Service as Mr Ferguson has recommended.
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