The following question on notice was asked by the Hon Adele Farina and answered in Parliament on Tuesday 16 June by the Attorney General on behalf of the Emergency Services Minister.

Hon Adele Farina to the Attorney General representing the Minister for Emergency Services:

(1) In each of the years 2013 and 2014, what bushfire prevention, damage mitigation and suppression operations were conducted by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) in the South West region?

(2) Do DFES staff or local government bushfire teams conduct prescribed burns?

(3) What action has DFES taken to ensure prescribed burns are conducted on crown land including national parks?

(4) In each of the years 2013 and 2014, how many prescribed burns were conducted in national parks in the South West region?

(5) In relation to (4), and for each of the years 2013 and 2014, what was the total area of land burnt through prescribed burns in national parks in the South West region?

Hon Michael Mischin replied:

Sponsor's message

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) advises:

The South West Region for reporting purposes includes the following Local Government’s: City of Bunbury; Shire of Capel; Shire of Collie; Shire of Dardanup; Shire of Harvey; Shire of Murray; and Shire of Waroona.

(1) In 2013, the Community Engagement Directorate employed a full-time Community Engagement Officer in the South West region to achieve a greater level of capacity and preparedness during hazards such as bushfire. The Community Engagement Officer engaged and supported the regional operational staff and volunteers to build their capacity to work with the community. Throughout 2013, bushfire preparedness activities were focused on high risk areas within the Shires of Dardanup, Murray and Collie. Community information sessions, brigade open days, workshops and a presence at community fairs provided bushfire preparedness messages to residents and community members.

In 2014, the capacity of staff and firefighters to engage with the community increased and allowed for the expansion of targeted bushfire preparedness activities. The Areas of Community Engagement Focus (ACEF) program was developed to allow the Community Engagement Officers working in the regions to target their engagement work. In the South West, preparedness activities and planning sessions were held across the Shires of Waroona, Capel, Murray, Dardanup, Collie, Harvey and the City of Bunbury. The range of activities held also expanded to allow for greater engagement with community members including the formalisation and delivery of Bushfire Ready Groups.

Bushfire Ready is a local community action program aimed at encouraging local residents to work together in preparing and protecting their families and properties against bushfires.

Between 2013 and 2014, the number of Bushfire Ready Facilitators in the South West region increased from 4 to 17 facilitators. Community engagement activities during 2014 also included open days, Bushfire Ready street meets, information displays, workshops, forums and focus groups.

In addition, damage mitigation and hazard reduction activities were undertaken in high risk areas in the form of burning, slashing and mulching. In 2014, the Bushfire Risk Management Planning Pilot was conducted within the Shire of Collie.

All fire responses are classified as suppression operations. The number of gazetted fire district fires requiring the DFES Fire and Rescue Service per calendar year in the DFES South West region were as follows:

  • 2013: 342;
  • 2014: 395; and
  • 2015 (to 30/04/2015): 221.

Local government and Department of Parks and Wildlife manage initial suppression operations outside of gazetted fire districts.

(2) Yes.

(3) DFES is currently in the early stages of implementing a new regime of bushfire risk management planning. This follows a successful pilot program conducted in four South West local governments during 2014. This program operates on a “tenure blind” basis covering all land, therefore where prescribed burning is deemed to be the appropriate risk treatment option, whether on crown land, national park, or any other tenure of land, this process will ensure that these are undertaken in accordance with priority and the opportunity to do so safely. DFES South West Region undertakes hazard reduction burning on unallocated crown land and unmanaged reserves within Gazetted Fire Districts on behalf of the Department of Lands through a Memorandum of Understanding. The South West Region Bushfire Risk Management Officer coordinates and conducts these activities.

(4) DFES is not responsible for prescribed burns in National Parks. This question should be referred to the Department of Parks and Wildlife for response.

(5) DFES is not responsible for prescribed burns in National Parks. This question should be referred to the Department of Parks and Wildlife for response.

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