Mid West locals urged to stay on high alert during bushfire season

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
Bushfire brigade members have to take safety courses.
Camera IconBushfire brigade members have to take safety courses. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Emergency services are warning Mid West residents to be on high alert for bushfires over the coming months, with fears warm weather has already dried out fuel loads which could easily ignite.

A total fire ban has been in place for large areas of the Mid West for most of the week due to hot, dry and windy conditions as temperatures in Geraldton rose above 40C on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning a section of Indian Ocean Drive was closed while firefighters battled to contain a bushfire south of Dongara.

The fire blazed through more than 100ha but was contained and under control by Wednesday afternoon. A bushfire emergency has been threatening lives and homes near Margaret River.

Department of Fire Emergency Services Mid West Gascoyne Supt Craig Smith said weather conditions were already raising alarm bells.

“With this weather coming in at this time of the year and the fact there is a few fires already tell us it’s going to be a hectic season ahead,” he said.

“It’s really imperative the community understands the situation we are going to be up against and are mindful of the weather conditions.

“People have got to be really careful and take those precautionary measures to make sure their properties are protected.”

While a bumper grain crop has been great news for Mid West farmers, Mr Smith said bigger-than-average fuel loads had dried up quickly.

“Rain earlier in the year has grown that fuel — it’s ready to burn,” he said.

“The bush is very dry. It doesn’t take much for sparks from vehicles or cigarette butts to start a fire.

“With the wind it will take fire quickly and make it difficult to control.”

Volunteer brigades play a big role in containing bushfires, but there are concerns local volunteer numbers could be lower than usual due to new State Government safety legislation.

The City of Greater Geraldton has told its volunteer brigades they have to complete a DFES rural fire awareness course and the “bushfire safety awareness and bushfire fundamentals” course before returning to duty.

“The City does not consider this to be an unreasonable request given the level of risk associated with attending these incidents,” director of infrastructure services Chris Lee said.

“However, the City does acknowledge that the timing for implementation of this legislation has presented challenges with attendance given the majority of volunteers are farmers and busy with harvesting.

“As such the City will be working with DFES and the volunteer brigades to arrange as many opportunities as possible in the near future for volunteers to attend if they are able.”

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