WA’S environment department staff have ‘world class’ fire management skills, a review following the Boorabbin fire tragedy has found. The report, by South Australian Country Fire Service’s chief officer Euan Ferguson, was a key recommendation made by the WA coroner in the wake of the disaster which claimed the lives of three truck rivers on December 30 2007. Robert Taylor, 46, and Lewis Bedford, 60, both of Two Rocks, and Trevor Murley, 53, of Hovea, died in their trucks after they became engulfed by the inferno on the Great Eastern Highway, west of Kalgoorlie.
About an hour earlier the Department of Environment and Conservation, who were responsible for managing the fire response, had allowed a convoy of 15 vehicles to pass through a road block. Despite the deaths, the review labelled DEC staff as having ‘world class’ fire management skills. It stated the department had ‘a sound capability and capacity’ for managing fire across the State’s 25 million hectares of conservation land.
It went on to highlight 17 recommendations – mostly operational changes – that the DEC could make to improve fire management. The recommendations included documenting an ‘Incident Action Plan’ allowing controllers to better understand and articulate a plan early in an incident. And, triggers which would transfer control of a fire from the DEC to the state’s Fire and Emergency Services.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher presented the report at a press conference this afternoon, stating a new document detailing policy, doctrine and key work systems is already being developed by DEC. “The review states that the value of DEC staff at every level in delivering fire management in the South-West forests must not be underestimated,” Ms Faragher said.