On the 24 Jun 2016, ABC Rural published an article titled:
WA volunteer bush firefighters will only support rural fire service independent of Department of Fire and Emergency Services
The article by Belinda Varischetti and Joanna Pendergast included two recorded interviews that are well worth a listen.
The article reads as follows:
The WA Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades says a rural fire service would only work if it operated as a separate entity to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) because of cultural differences.
The establishment of a rural fire service was one of the main recommendations of an inquiry into January’s Yarloop/Waroona bushfire, lead by former head of the Victorian Country Fire Authority Euan Ferguson.
The report was tabled in State Parliament in Perth.
Dave Gossage, president of the Western Australian Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades, said there would always be a “cultural divide between paid and volunteer” firefighters.
“That’s not saying we don’t work well together, because we do, believe you me we work exceptionally well together on the ground,” he said.
“But the fundamental difference is the paid people in the city work on a structure of command and control versus the volunteer organisations that work on a culture of trust and respect.
“When you have those two culturally different paradigms you can’t put the trust and respect one under a structure of command and control because history has repeatedly shown that they fail.”
Mr Gossage did not support the introduction of a rural fire service under the authority of the DFES.
He said a fear culture had developed under the current structure in WA and that had to change.
“The issues coming out of the Esperance fires and all the big fires from previous years and certainly the Waroona fire is we weren’t allowed to make a decision,” he said.
“That common theme that we couldn’t take a bulldozer on there because we didn’t have permission from Perth.
“Those sorts of comments say to me that we have disempowered our community and taken away the ability of good, common sense decision-making from the local level.
“That should never, ever occur and it has to the point where we have almost created a fear culture that nobody wants to make a decision because they are frightened they might get into trouble.”
The WA Farmers Federation want more localised response
WA Farmers’ Federation executive policy officer Grady Powell said under the current structure it took too long for critical firefighting decisions to be made.
“The Euan Ferguson report showed that prescribed burning hasn’t been done,” he said.
“There’s a backlog of 12 years that needs to be caught up with, and with these fuel loads there we’re really putting not just our farmers but the small towns like Yarloop and Waroona in real danger.
“So we hope that having someone who is responsible for fire mitigation living in the areas, they can apply the best needs for the purpose that they see fit.
“If we’re looking at the report that was handed down, Euan Ferguson has been quite upfront in saying that there has been a disjoint between the firies, the incident managers and the superiors in Perth overseeing any response.
“I think if we’re talking about a system, I don’t want to use the word broken but it can’t be far off that, I think the best way forward is to try a new fit, and I think that new fit probably is a country fire service where we can really look after the fires and localise that with personnel.
“Hopefully what we’ll see is a quicker reaction as well, so these fires will be put out quickly, rather than waiting for decisions to be made by those in Perth, by that time when those decisions are made a fire may have escalated.”
The Euan Ferguson Report
Download the Euan Ferguson report using the links below. Please note that Vol 1 is approx. 4MB and Vol 2 is approx. 15.5MB in size.