DFES Commissioner Darren Klemm said Saturday in explaining the role of the new Rural Fire Division, it will be business as usual in regard to fire fighting operations and training. Bush Fire Brigades “will do as they do now on an operational basis” he told volunteers and DFES personnel Saturday morning in Busselton.
Minister for Emergency Services, Fran Logan, told the meeting DFES has been restructured to allow it to move from a “response agency” to a “prepare and planning agency” for any emergency. The six divisions have been reduced to four with Rural Fire being one of the new divisions. The others are Operations, Corporate Services and Strategy and Emergency Management. Operations will be responsible for fire management in the same manner as today. Bush Fire Brigades will continue to be the responsibility of local government and this is not going to change under the revised legislation that will replace the Bush Fires Act, the minister confirmed to a question from David Hunt.
The Rural Fire Division will include the Bushfire Centre of Excellence which will “ensure WA has the best access to bushfire knowledge, training, technical expertise, science and research.” This will be run by current Lower South West Commissioner, John Tillman. There have been discussions with the Shire of Mundaring about locating the centre there but no final decisions have been made. The BCE will be involved in “high level” training, but regular training will continue as at present, the commissioner said.
The Office of Bushfire Risk Management (OBRM) will move from being a stand alone unit to being part of the Rural Fire Division. The division’s Bushfire Risk Management Planning group will be responsible for the Bushfire Risk Management Program which will manage the $35 million allocated to address bushfire risks and mitigation. The division will employ Volunteer Support Officers to “reduce the administrative duties for brigades” and Volunteer Liaison Officers to “facilitate communication between volunteers, DFES and the Government”.
The division’s executive director, Murray Carter, was previously head of OBRM after a long career with the Forest Department and Parks and Wildlife/CALM.
The $80 million initiative will be primarily funded by a 10.8% increase ($28) in the ESL Category 1 (urban) rates. ESL rates in the regions will rise from between $8-$17.