WA farmers urged to take ‘immediate action’ to make bushfire plans

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Burning stubble on the road to Wongan Hills.
Camera IconBurning stubble on the road to Wongan Hills. Credit: PETER MALONEY

Growers have been warned to take “immediate action” to protect their assets and prepare fire plans after a spate of machinery and paddock fires on WA farms.

Farmers in recent weeks have been taking to social media to share their unfortunate experiences as headers go up in flames, with fires confirmed in Cunderdin, Mingenew, Pingelly and East Chapman.

It comes as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services released its seasonal forecast, predicting an above-average risk for large parts of the Midwest, Gascoyne, Pilbara, South West and Great Southern.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has released new information on its Season 2021 webpages with useful links to assist landholders to reduce the risk of fire damaging their assets.

Header burnt to a crisp on a farm in East Chapman two weekends ago.
Camera IconHeader burnt to a crisp on a farm in East Chapman two weekends ago. Credit: Moonyoonooka Volunteer Bush Fire

The website provides advice on what could be damaged by fire, identifying fire hazards, reducing hazards and making farms fire safe.

Department Incident and Emergency Management director Pam I’Anson said with an increased fuel load and predictions of above-average daily temperatures for most of the State, it was important for landholders to take immediate action to be prepared.

Ms I’Anson said it was “imperative” landholders developed a fire management program and a bushfire plan.

“Rural landholders are no strangers to the risk of fire, which can start from a range of sources, including lightening strikes, spontaneous combustion of haystacks, machinery and vehicles and fallen power lines,” she said.

“The risk is particularly high for properties with a history of wildfires, that have experienced hot dry conditions for extended periods combined with strong winds, sloping and dissected country and those with poor access.

“It is important to document preparedness plans and to involve all members of the household so everyone knows what to do in the unfortunate event of a fire and reduce the risk of harm.”

A free Bushfire Plan template can be downloaded, which takes about 15 minutes to complete.

“Maintaining fuel free firebreaks is essential, including around boundaries and laneways, sheds, yards and storage areas, water supply infrastructure, fuel storage and powerlines,” Ms I’Anson said.

“Reducing the fuel load around sensitive areas, like houses, sheds and yards, and having firefighting gear ready to go is also good practice.”

It details measures to prevent vehicle and harvest fires — including stopping frequently to clean dust and stubble off hot engine components and always having a fire extinguisher on board — and advice on how to prevent spontaneous combustion in hay sheds caused by inadequate airflow.

Ms I’Anson said there were also resources to assist livestock farmers, animal owners and carers to prepare a Plan for Animal Welfare in Emergencies.

“Livestock producers and pet and companion owners alike are encouraged to pause for PAWE and fill out the template on the factsheet,” she said.

“This covers when, how and where to evacuate animals, as well as what to do after the fire, while there is a separate factsheet with advice when returning home after a bushfire.”

For more bushfire preparedness advice for rural landholders and general bushfire advice refer to agric.wa.gov.au and emergency.wa.gov.au.

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