Bushfire buffer zones needed in WA

bushfire buffer zones
Bushfire buffer zones needed in WA

Bushfire buffer zones: A plan to place buffer zones between urban areas and the bush needs to be funded by the state government, according to a volunteer firefighting association.

John Iffla, spokesperson for the Emergency Services Volunteer Association said he written an open letter to Premier Mr Barnett asking him to allocate ongoing funding to the bushfire risk management program.

The program was devised following major fires in the Perth Hills in 2010 and in the following year near Margaret River in the state’s South West.

The government funded a pilot following publication of the Keelty Report into the fires.

“It appeared to be successful, but they’ve never rolled that plan out across the state,” Mr Iffla said.

Along with other volunteers from various associations, Mr Iffla worked with the WA Department of Premier and Cabinet to formulate the plan.

In his letter, Mr Iffla stated:

If your government had funded the bushfire risk mitigation program, instead of only the pilot … we now would have 30 to 40 highly-experienced bushfire staff working in regional DFES offices.

These highly skilled bushfire professionals would be working with volunteers, local government, and all landowners to formulate bushfire protection zone plans, prescriptions and helping to do treatments around bushfire prone communities.

These professionals would have already built up relationships within regional communities, and if the time of an emergency arises, they would become operational through supporting the community’s volunteers.

Bushfire buffer zones are much needed

Mr Iffla estimated that the government would need to inject $7 million into the mitigation scheme initially and another $10 million to $15 million a year to help local governments to start implementing buffer zones.

“Start-up costs will be high but once the plan’s been rolled out, the upkeep will be more economical,” he said.

He believes five to seven years of prescribed burning and slashing should be enough to create low-fuel zones around communities.

Mr Iffla declined to comment on the recent Waroona fire which almost destroyed the town of Yarloop.

However, he said he knew of towns “that have bushfire zones that have been saved. I live in a high risk area and we’ve just started doing our own.”

The Bremer Bay local government is supportive and has employed someone to coordinate the planning for the mitigation zones.

Mr Iffla pointed out that the current emphasis was on response, with expensive equipment and infrastructure often idle.

He said that infrastructure could be used to put physical barriers in place to slow down major fires.

He said he had received no response from either the Premier or the Emergency Services Minister at this stage but was hoping to meet with either at the end of the week. To read more click here.