Please find below the Association’s Letter to the Editor published on page 46 of today’s The West Australian newspaper.

Roger Underwood (Letters, 12/11) condenses the solution to the ever-present threat of bushfire into three issues:

(i) hazard and fuel reduction;

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(ii) bushfire-resilient rural communities, and

(iii) a professional firefighting organisation.

As the peak body for Western Australia’s 20,000-plus volunteer bushfire brigade members, Bushfire Volunteers is extremely proud to have advocated for the first two and represented the third for decades.

What was printed of Mr Underwood’s letter may have left readers unaware of some salient facts that are very important to the tens of thousands of women and men who routinely leave their homes and families to protect those of others, every day of the year, all over WA, at no cost to the taxpayer.

With regard to each of the points made:

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(1) The State Government’s recent interest and (significant, welcome) investment in mitigation and fuel reduction comes after decades of this work being carried out by local bushfire volunteers, with little to no help from previous governments.

(2) The local knowledge, culture and methodologies of WA’s 500-plus unique local government-controlled bush fire brigades is an essential part of the bushfire-resilient rural communities Mr Underwood calls for. The Ferguson Special Inquiry into the 2016 Waroona/Yarloop Fires attests to this.

(3) The word “professional” is often used to subtly undermine the diverse skill set of WA’s incredible emergency services volunteers. It’s unclear whether Mr Underwood’s letter is advocating for a fully paid firefighting organisation or if he was inferring the status quo is not highly skilled.

The fact is either argument would be severely flawed.

Western Australia is simply too big and sparse to make it viable to pay every firefighter needed to provide the current level of service we are blessed to have.

And if “professional” was used to infer bushfire volunteers are not competent, we urge the author to have a chat to anyone who lived in Yarloop, Waroona, Marysville in Victoria or any other Australian town that is still there today as a result of the incredible, brave, skilful and professional work of volunteers during catastrophic bushfires.

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