Two reports into the Toodyay bushfire, one of the most damaging bushfires in the State’s history in terms of the severity of the fire and loss of property, were released today. Chief Operations Officer Craig Hynes said the emergency response by the local shire, volunteer firefighters and FESA staff was exceptional given the catastrophic weather conditions. “Despite the devastating loss of homes and property, and the traumatic impact on the community, all those involved in the response should be praised for their actions under such extreme conditions,” Mr Hynes said. “We feel for the people who have lost their homes, yet our firefighters, volunteers and staff should be commended for the best possible outcome. “They responded exceptionally well to the event and should be applauded for their actions, without their professionalism and dedication the outcome could have been very different.”
As is standard practice following a significant event, FESA has conducted a Major Incident Review (MIR) into the bushfire which occurred on 29 December 2009. Mr Hynes said it is imperative that we learn from every incident to enhance the emergency services provided to all Western Australians. “FESA is committed to continuous improvement and is looking to learn from what went well and what can be done to improve the way we operate,” he said. “It is a matter of not being complacent and determining what changes can to be made to further enhance operational effectiveness and community safety.”
Mr Hynes said while the MIR reached the conclusion that the best possible outcome had been achieved, there were 13 recommendations in the areas of prevention, preparedness, response and organisational issues. “Although it was the review team’s opinion that there was nothing further FESA could have done that would have changed the outcomes of the fire, we are making the necessary changes to improve our operational effectiveness.” Mr Hynes said the MIR raised the need for further clarity of command following recent legislative changes to the Bushfires Amendment Act as well as recommending boosting WA’s urban interface firefighting capability and capacity.
FESA also released its investigative report into the origin and cause of the Toodyay bushfire. Fire estigation Officer Gary Baxter said to ensure that every avenue of inquiry had been thoroughly exhausted interstate experts were called in to conduct a peer review to examine all aspects of FESA’s work.
Mr Baxter said it was FESA’s conclusion that the fire was accidental and the cause was electrical. “All potential causes have been eliminated other than electricity which may have started the fire in two ways, either through power pole failure or an unknown foreign airborne object contacting the conductors,” he said.
Mr Baxter said as part of the quality assurances process, FESA had provided a draft copy of its report to EnergySafety to review prior to its release. Copies of the reports can be found on the FESA website at www.fesa.wa.gov.au