The head of West Australia’s fire and emergency services authority (FESA) has been sacked after a scathing report by former Australia Federal Police boss Mick Keelty into February’s Perth Hills bushfire. The fire, which tore through the Roleystone and Kelmscott area on February 6, destroyed 71 homes.
WA Premier Colin Barnett told parliament that Mr Keelty’s report showed the state’s ability to minimise fire risk is inadequate and unless major improvements are made “the potential for another Roleystone remains”. Mr Barnett said the report showed cultural and structural change was needed at FESA and the public sector commissioner had asked CEO Jo Harrison-Ward to step aside. Mr Keelty recommended FESA, which currently operates independently, be brought under government control and the board disbanded.
The nation’s former top cop also blasted FESA for overlooking the assistance from the local Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and instead going straight to the Victorian fire brigade. “Presumably the Victorian resources, as skilled as they may be, would not have had the same level of familiarity with the foreground as WA DEC officers,” he said.
“The special inquiry finds that optimum coordination of available resources to fight Perth Hills of 5 and 6 February, 2011, was not provided because of a series of shortcomings on the part of senior FESA management to properly consult and coordination.” Mr Keelty said FESA’s evidence to the inquiry “attempted to cover up these shortcomings”.
He said the inquiry was concerned that FESA had not followed the WA emergency plan for bushfires and did not explicitly declare the level of the incident. Mr Keelty also concluded WA police were not made aware of the incident level of the fires. The report was littered with examples of FESA not complying with the states’ emergency management plan during the fire which it must do to “maintain their credibility and accountability”.