Bushfire control a WA first

Glenn CordingleyBroome Advertiser

Four Kimberley councils are about to embark on a WA first three-year trial by handing over control of bushfire responsibilities to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Shire of Broome chief executive Kenn Donohoe said the move would see greater resources pumped into the region through the emergency services levy, which is collected by local governments.

Mr Donohoe said it was understood that four additional staff would be recruited to Broome, where the regional headquarters would be based.

“(DFES) are specific professionals in this particular area and there will also be additional funds allocated to more equipment for the Kimberley — more than what we have ever seen before,” he said.

DFES Commissioner Wayne Gregson accepted the trial after the body representing the four councils — the Combined Kimberley Zone — agreed to proceed.

The centralisation is subject to the shires of Broome, Derby West Kimberley, Wyndham East Kimberley and Halls Creek entering into a memorandum of understanding with DFES for the transfer of control of bushfire response and management of bushfire brigades.

Mr Donohoe said a resolution from the four councils will be sent to Mr Gregson who will determine the resources required before the transition starts on September 1 in preparation for the bushfire season. Mr Donohoe described it as a “fantastic outcome” for communities within the region.

“Back in 2008 we just did not have the resources to really adequately look after the community,” he said.

“This will actually provide a centralised point so that wherever the resources are required there will be a centralised group very similar to what you see in the Eastern States where they have a country fire authority.”

He believes the move will increase the number of volunteer firefighters from the current 35 “because there will be an increase in equipment, more opportunities in being involved with fire response, and better training”.

Mr Donohoe said DFES has spoken with bushfire brigades about the transition process.

“While they stay our responsibility, the direct control will be co-ordinated by a bushfire control officer who is appointed by DFES,” he said.

DFES Kimberley Superintendent Grant Pipe said the department had been approached by local governments in the Kimberley to consider changing how bushfires were managed in the region.

He said DFES had developed a proposal which outlines a management structure that “recognises the unique circumstances of the region”.

Councils will retain some responsibilities including issuing of fire permits during non-burning periods, and collecting the emergency services levy, and management following natural disasters like bushfires.

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