Emergency Services Minister Bob Wiese will today launch a new fire prevention strategy aimed at protecting the Hills communities in the Darling escarpment against bushfires.
Mr Wiese said the Community FireGuard program was designed to encourage property owners and residents who lived in bushfire prone areas to work together to protect themselves and their property against fire.
He said three shires located in the high fire-risk area - Mundaring, Kalamunda and Armadale - would take part in an 18-month pilot program to assess the roles both individuals and communities could play in fire prevention.
"The people living in these areas have to face the fact that fire authorities cannot protect everyone if there is a major bushfire," Mr Wiese said.
"Communities also must take some responsibility to help themselves by taking preventive action long before an emergency happens.
"Community FireGuard is about changing people's attitude to fire - not just to make them aware of the risks, but to motivate them to do the right thing around their own home and to work with others to ensure their local areas are also safe from the dangers of fire."
Community FireGuard is an initiative from a working party set up by the Minister to look at improving the management of bushfire-related issues and safety of communities at most risk.
Mr Wiese said Western Power was the major sponsor of the pilot program and had pledged more than $80,000 to help establish, manage and monitor Community FireGuard in association with the WA Fire Brigade, Department of Conservation and Land Management, Bush Fires Board and WA Municipal Association.
Community FireGuard advocates the following steps in fire prevention:
+ clear fire breaks and nature strips;
+ make plans for elderly neighbours in case of fire;
+ nominate a house most likely to survive fire which could be
a communal shelter;
+ organise working bees to reduce the build-up of leaves and
twigs around homes and other properties;
+ work closely with Western Power and local councils to report potential problems for immediate action; and -
+ cut long grass and clear fallen leaves and undergrowth away from homes.
Similar programs have proven successful in other States. In Victoria the program is active in more than 70 high risk areas. This follows the disastrous Ash Wednesday fires when more than 75 people died and 3,200 homes/rural properties were destroyed in Victoria and South Australia.
Mr Wiese said Community FireGuard would play a support role to the people who already worked in the area of fire prevention and fire-fighting.
"There are already many individuals, both paid and voluntary, who make an outstanding contribution to improving the safety of the people in the Hills," he said.
"With better management and support through Community FireGuard they will be able to achieve even better results."
A Community FireGuard co-ordinator has been appointed to train volunteers to work with community groups and teach them how to reduce the fire risk around their homes, in the street and immediate bushland.
Media contact: Mark Thompson 222 9595