Ten Western Australian fire management specialists head for Victoria today to help combat bushfires that have burned across more than 409,000ha in the State’s Gippsland and north-east areas.
Environment Minister Tony McRae and Emergency Services Minister John Kobelke said the WA team comprised seven officers from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and three from the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA).
Mr McRae said the officers would play key roles in incident management teams including incident controller and planning, logistics and operations officers. Other vital tasks would be as air attack supervisor, intelligence officer and geographic information systems operator.
“Some of the officers already have experience battling bushfires interstate when WA assisted their counterparts in the past few years,” he said.
“Three of them have served as part of the Australia-New Zealand contingents which have been sent to the United States over the past six years.
“WA’s fire managers are recognised nationally and internationally for their expertise, particularly in combating fires in tall eucalypt forests.
“DEC’s Fire Management Services manager, Rick Sneeuwjagt, went to Victoria last weekend to assess the fire situation and to liaise with agencies on the most valuable assistance WA could offer.”
Mr Kobelke said while it was important to assist other States at a time when their resources were becoming depleted, there was also a direct benefit to WA.
"Our fire managers get the opportunity to practise their skills in a major incident working with experienced fire fighters in other States, and this enhances their skills when they return home and tackle fires here in WA,” he said.
Mr Kobelke said the WA team would join others from New Zealand, NSW and the ACT.
“National and international agreements ensure that deployments from other States and countries can be called in to assist promptly and this reflects the high level of co-operation within the wildfire fraternity,” he said.
“While both FESA and DEC are assisting our counterparts in the Eastern States, we need to ensure there are enough fire fighters in WA to tackle any emergencies in this State.”
Mr McRae said although WA had faced a large bushfire in Kalamunda yesterday and a series of lightning-caused bushfires across the south coast and in the Pilbara over the past few weeks, the State was able to spare senior officers because of extensive training and resources provided over the past decade.
“The Carpenter Government also is injecting an additional $5.5million for DEC’s fire operations in 2006-07 that will greatly increase resources in the South-West and other regions,” he said.
“In 2005, the Government also allocated an additional $2.7million a year to DEC to increase front-line fire crew numbers by 40 across the South-West region and south coast.”
The WA deployment is expected to be in Victoria for a week. A second deployment is being placed on standby in case extreme fire conditions continue in the Eastern States.
Environment Minister's office - 9213 7150
Emergency Services Minister's office - 9222 9211