SES Volunteers Association of Western Australia (Incorporated)

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04/07/2016 – Waroona Fire Inquiry – From the Commissioner

DFES response to the Waroona fire Inquiry

The January 2016 Waroona Fire Special Inquiry provides 17 recommendations for strategic change to enhance our State’s bushfire response. The report is as an opportunity for us all to continue on a journey of improvement together.  The report provides valuable insight as we seek to learn from this devastating incident and my thanks go to the career and volunteer personnel who were engaged in the response.

The progress that has been made in recent years is recognised in the report, which highlights that all those involved in fire management and incident response are working better together at every level across Western Australia (WA). It also acknowledges the critical role of volunteers and your contribution to the community.
Significantly, Euan Ferguson found that people on the ground did a good job in extremely challenging conditions. The strategies employed were reasonable and the decisions made were appropriate. I am extremely proud of all who were involved in the response to this bushfire, which was unstoppable in its fury for three days. You are to be commended for your efforts and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) stands by you.

I’m pleased to say that many of the improvements recommended in the report are already underway. These include enhanced delivery of alerts and warnings, smartphone notifications, exploring the use of infrared technology to map fires, and the tracking of vehicles on the fireground.
Other recommended initiatives are supported by DFES such as commissioning research into the relationship between unusual weather and fire, expanding the bushfire risk mitigation grants program and reviewing traffic management systems.

DFES is firmly committed to implementing changes to improve our State’s bushfire response and we will be progressing any actions relating to DFES as soon as is practicable. However, fighting major bushfires is a multi-agency task and collaboration between agencies and volunteers is essential if we are to bring about meaningful and lasting change.

One of the most significant recommendations is the establishment of a rural fire service. This is a matter for State Government consideration, as are any other larger changes or initiatives, and DFES will support their direction.  We recognise that emergency services volunteers are critical to the delivery of emergency services in WA, especially in remote and regional areas. We will continue to work on building and strengthening relationships with volunteers at every level.

Once a clear way forward is established, we must all dig deep and work together. Capitalising on these opportunities for development will take courage as well as a focus on the future. This is the only way to enhance the safety and protection of WA communities and ensure our State is prepared.
Change, whilst not easy, can drive us all forward. The findings of this report must strengthen our resolve as we continue along the path of collaboration and improvement. The input of Volunteer Associations and of emergency services volunteers is essential and DFES will make every effort to consult going forward.

DFES also wants to reassure all volunteers that any proposed changes will not have an immediate impact on you. DFES will be keeping volunteers informed wherever possible as recommendations are carefully considered.  In the meantime, our focus is to keep training and continuing to work hard to keep the community safe.  DFES looks forward to working with all of you to enhance the management of bushfires and other incidents across our State. 

Copies of the report can be found on the Public Sector Commission’s website.

Wayne Gregson APM
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner


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