This article was published by The Daily Telegraph on February 05, 2015 at 8:52PM
Western Australia needs to have more controlled burns to curb the risk of out-of-control bushfires, the WA premier says.
Firefighters have been working for a week to save lives and homes in the state’s south from a bushfire surrounding Northcliffe.
The blaze has burnt more than 80,000 hectares of karri and jarrah forest.
Fewer controlled burns have been done in WA since 2011, when two prescribed burns at Margaret River and the Perth Hills destroyed more than 100 homes.
Premier Colin Barnett said on Thursday that more controlled burns were needed in vast forest areas despite opposition from local communities.
“I think we need to take a stronger stand,” Mr Barnett told Fairfax radio.
“In those areas of vast forest, it’s a natural phenomenon. You will get lightning strikes and you will get bushfires. It’s been going on for millions of years.”
Northcliffe resident Brad, who lives on a bush block and has held out until Thursday to leave town, told ABC radio he did not agree with prescribed burning because he did not believe it worked.
He said he would rather be forced to leave the forest-enveloped town and live with the risk of big fires than have authorities clear it every few years so the area resembled parkland.
“I think the loss of habitat, flora and fauna is far more destructive than what we’ve seen for the odd big fire that comes through,” Brad said.
Roger Underwood, chairman of prescribed burning advocacy group Bushfire Front and veteran firefighter, told AAP this week that WA was the world leader in prescribed burning in the 1970s and ’80s, but that was no longer the case.
Mr Underwood said Australia was “doomed to savage bushfires” without prescribed burns.
Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said prescribed burns would not have prevented the Northcliffe bushfire because it was sparked by lightning.
He also said the karri and jarrah forests of the South West were the key reason they were so popular, and removing vast tracts would not go down well.
The forecast for the South West for the rest of Thursday is humid and cloudy, with a 90 per cent chance of showers and maximum temperatures in the mid to high 20s.
On Friday, light south to southeasterly winds are forecast, increasing to 15-25km/h in the morning then to 20-30km/h in the late afternoon, with daytime temperatures of 24-31C.