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Burning needfor absentee owner alert

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
The Metricup volunteer fire brigade were one of many to attend the Carbunup escaped burn.
Camera IconThe Metricup volunteer fire brigade were one of many to attend the Carbunup escaped burn. Credit: Busselton-Dunsborough Times, Jackson Lavell-Lee

While the past week’s wild weather has dampened immediate fire fears, volunteer brigades across the region say residents, and absentee owners in particular, must do more to monitor bushfire safety.

The recommendation extends to the Parks and Wildlife service, which will undertake a review of its processes after controlled fires lit at Forest Products Commission sites in Jarrahwood, Vasse and Baudin to remove post-harvest pine debris between May 21 and 24 re-ignited and escaped confinement last Thursday.

Despite predictions from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and local brigades last week, the three Parks and Wildlife controlled burns escaped during fierce winds, sparking a major emergency response.

The fires mobilised all firefighters across the region, including State crews, and came on the back of a busy week for brigades in the Augusta-Margaret River shire.

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A separate bushfire on Thursday required brigades in Forest Grove, during which Margaret River Independent School was evacuated.

Before last Thursday’s multiple incidents, Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade warned despite some showers, bush fuel loads remained dry from summer and autumn.

It followed a similar grim forecast from the DFES State Intelligence Overview on Wednesday.

A Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions media officer had no immediate details about how the plantation burns escaped. “DBCA will be undertaking a review to examine what led to the escapes from these heap burns and how the risk of escapes in the future might be more effectively mitigated,” the spokesperson said.

The DBCA, then called the Department of Environment and Conservation, was responsible for two fires that burned out of control west of Margaret River in 2011, destroying more than 50 properties.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River did not respond to media inquiries, but City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said the fire that threatened the Jarrahwood township “could have been far worse” if not for local brigades.

Despite drama around the escaped burns, Augusta-Margaret River firefighters said brigades were attending half a dozen incidents daily before the major incidents, some because of neglected burn piles not monitored by owners who had left for Perth.

Similar incidents occurred last year.

“We are stoked to see people reducing the fuels around their properties, but we need to really emphasise that if you light a fire, it’s your responsibility to manage your fire,” Wallcliffe posted online.

“And remain with it for the entire duration.”

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