Old methods to win fire fight

Headshot of Tim Clarke
Tim ClarkeThe West Australian
Waroona farmer Peter Stacey.
Camera IconWaroona farmer Peter Stacey. Credit: The West Australian

The Battle of Coronation Road raged for five days, led by Waroona farmer Peter Stacey and his battered front-end loader.

Joined by his son Dave and neighbours, the volunteer bushfire veteran used old-school methods to try to stop the raging Waroona bushfire from jumping the road — which Mr Stacey said represented a “line in the sand” in the fight to contain the big blaze.

With the fight now apparently won — which the South West farmer said was at times a one-in-10 chance — he is concerned about red tape and methods he believes prevented the fire being tackled earlier, and with more resources.

“If it had got over Coronation Road, it could have burned halfway to Mandurah,” Mr Stacey said.

“But I don’t believe it should have got out of Lane Poole Reserve. Theoretically, we have the equipment now that it shouldn’t ever happen.”

After being called in to assist the firefighting effort late on Wednesday night, Mr Stacey and his team deployed the heavy machinery and a ute used as a makeshift water truck to smother the flames.

“The idea is to get either side of the fire, and bring it in, and bring it in, and bring it in until you can strangle it,” he said.

Mr Stacey was at one stage immobilised in the loader amid dozens of trees on fire, when he was assisted by Department of Fire and Emergency Services units. After the cooler weather helped calm conditions, he and his team stood down yesterday, and like the rest of the community began asking how and why the Waroona fire got so big.

“Forty years ago we did not have mobile phones or water bombers and we did the job, so we are failing somewhere,” Mr Stacey said.

“We can’t go on to crown land and do anything, so if you see smoke you have got to sit and wait or you will end up in court. If I had a fire on my land and refused entry to fight it, and then it grew and it burnt out a town, I would think I would be in a lot of trouble.”

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