- Wooroloo bushfires in early February 2021 destroyed 86 homes, WA’s second largest in 50+ years.
- Bushfire Volunteers requested and offered support for an inquiry on 11 February.
- Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Circular on 23 February said information was being gathering for analysis but has not conducted any kind of inquiry or review.
- Bushfire Volunteers association will try to fill the gap with its own inquiry.
The peak body for WA’s 20,000+ Bush Fire volunteers is calling on volunteers, residents, local governments, paid firefighters, and members of the public to share their experiences and insights of what occurred before, during and after the devastating Wooroloo bushfires.
Bushfire Volunteers’ Executive Officer Darren Brown said the association has taken the unprecedented step of launching its own inquiry because members have expressed concern over the absence of any other.
“Important lessons can’t be learned if no one asks what worked and what didn’t,” Mr Brown said.
“It is universally accepted that one of the most effective ways to minimise the risk of and improve the response to major bushfires is to conduct timely, inclusive and honest reviews when they happen.”
“The 2016 Special Inquiry into the Waroona-Yarloop fires is directly responsible for the most significant changes in government policy in living memory because it started before the fire was declared all clear, reported in a little over 3 months and actively sought feedback from everyone involved.”
“Memories fade, people move and interest wanes, so we are stepping in now to try to minimise any further loss of opportunity to listen to, and learn from, those with first-hand knowledge and experience.”
“We know DFES has had its hands full with the summer of 2019-20, COVID-19 and cyclone Seroja. As a consequence, there was no review of the Yanchep bushfire in 2019, no review of the firefighting tactics in the Norseman bushfire that closed the Eyre Highway for 12 days in 2020 and after 4 months, not even a promise of any of review of the Wooroloo bushfire that destroyed 86 homes less than 50km from the CBD.”
“Our members have long been worried about the trend to conduct ‘internal’ reviews that don’t allow volunteers to contribute and collaborate, and now that the last three major bushfires in WA haven’t had any review – internal or independent – it’s clear we should try to help DFES by running our own.”
Submissions can be made via the association website: www.bushfire.org.au/research