A graphic, hardhitting television advertisement - which targets arson and careless behaviour as the causes of most fires - will be the focal point of this year's `SummerSafe 97' fire awareness campaign.
Emergency Services Minister Bob Wiese said the advertisement - which featured a terrified family surrounded by fire - `pulled no punches' and was likely to shock some people.
"Fire is a deadly serious business and the fire service agencies are deadly serious about getting the message across," Mr Wiese said.
"I make no apologies for showing this type of advertisement, because fire is terrifying and the community needs a jolt to make people take a greater responsibility for fire prevention."
Launching the `SummerSafe 97' campaign in Kings Park - the scene of a devastating bush fire in January this year - Mr Wiese said there were almost 5,500 fires during December, January and February last year.
"Those fires claimed five lives - including two volunteer fire fighters - and caused wide-spread damage worth more than $5 million," he said.
"This year the fire agencies will be taking a unified approach to preparedness and response and an uncompromising approach towards public education."
Mr Wiese said the issue of public awareness was especially crucial for people living in the Darling Scarp - one of the State's high-risk fire areas because of the population living in bushland settings.
He said that as part of the preparedness/ response plan for the Darling Scarp region the three fire fighting agencies - the Fire and Rescue Service of WA, the Bush Fires Board and the Department of Conservation and Land Management - had adopted a three-pronged attack which included:
· `Operation Firebird' which is the trial use of aerial water bombers;
· a comprehensive fuel reduction program in the area; and -
· the automatic turnout of all three fire fighting agencies.
Mr Wiese said the community must take a more responsible role in fire prevention this summer around the home and out in the community.
"This includes installing smoke alarms and clearing overhanging branches and undergrowth from around the home," he said.
"In particular we want to encourage people to act on and report suspicious behaviour and dial ‘000' if they see fire anywhere."
Other preparedness and response plans outlined by Mr Wiese include;
· monitoring and clearing bushland growth below powerlines by Western Power;
· Community Fireguard - a fire awareness program for people living in high-risk bushfire areas which is supported by Western Power;
· the Urban Bushland Program - the development of fire prevention and suppression plans for environmentally sensitive areas in conjunction with stakeholders; and -
· the upgrading of communications equipment for Bush Fire Brigades from a Government grant assistance scheme for local government authorities.
Media contact: Mark Thompson on 322 2311