Burns figures 'worrying': expert

JOSH ZIMMERMANBunbury Herald

Bunbury-based bush fire management expert Percy Wild has called on the State Government to better target its resources after the revelation last week that only 10 per cent of planned South West controlled burns were completed last year.

The Department of Environment and Conservation burnt just 23,468ha of its 200,000ha South West target in the 12 months to June 30.

In that same timeframe more than six million hectares of potentially dangerous bush was burnt in other areas of the State.

Mr Wild, who spent 22 years working for the Bushfire Board and FESA including nearly a decade as fire safety officer for the South West, described the figures as “worrying”.

“DEC, or the Department of Parks and Wildlife as it is now, really need to target their burns – they can go and burn 3000 hectares out in woop woop but it doesn’t really help anybody all that much.

“You really want to be concentrating on places where you have interface with residential or special rural properties.

“Unfortunately where you have those interfaces the department seems to sometimes shy off doing burns because they get a certain amount of flak from residents.”

In unveiling its dismal 2012/13 controlled burn result, the DEC Annual Report said that “enhanced requirements in prescribed burn planning and risk management as a result of the 2011 Margaret River bushfire contributed to a significant reduction of the area able to be prescribed burnt this year.”

Mr Wild said an increase in new landowners throughout the South West was also contributing to the growing bushfire risk in the region.

“Generally speaking it is the newer homeowners from the city that don’t like to see burns near their houses — farmers and old timers usually don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

A Department of Parks and Wildlife spokesman said controlled burn numbers should improve in 2013-14.

“It was neither intended or expected that the new procedures would be an impediment to prescribed burning, but a period of bedding down the changes is not unexpected,” he said.

“The department does not expect the new arrangements to restrict prescribed burning during 2013-14, although weather and other constraints will continue to impact on the program.”

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