Independent Oversight of MR Fire Response Enquiry

The WA government has agreed to a recommendation of the Keelty report that there be independent oversight of the inhouse enquiry looking into the response operation of last November’s Margaret River Fire. Specifically, recommendation nine states: “The response operation to the Margaret River bushfire in November 2011 be the subject of a review with independent oversight.”  The scope of the Keelty Enquiry was limited to the cause of the fire. At the start of the enquiry, Mick Keetly told Margaret River residents that FESA would be carrying out its own internal enquiry into the fire.

The full text of the report is available here. The government’s response is here.

The Report produced 10 recommendations and the government has agreed to implement all 10. One is that DEC review its prescribed burns procedures to fully utilise the skills available to it including volunteer bushfire brigades, especially in regard to use as a source of local advice;
and FESA. Another calls for the establishment of a new Office of Bushfire Risk Management, which will be responsible for signing off on all DEC prescribed burn plans. It will report to FESA chief executive Wayne Gregson. It has also been recommended that any level 3 bushfire, defined as a complex fire in which life and property are at risk, will automatically fall under the overall control of FESA. Also DEC has been instructed to temporarily suspend further burns within 5km of town sites and rural subdivisions until a complete risk assessment is undertaken.

The report also recommends DEC conducts research into the fuel management of coastal heath in the south west, exploring alternatives to burning as well as best practice for burning.

The West Australian report is here and the ABC report is here.

Last Chance for Firey Plates

The Dept of Transport has advised that it will “retire” or close the Bush Fire Service plate scheme because the number of plates being taken up is no longer viable.

The DoT will close the series within the month (14 March 2012), after which BFS plates will no longer be available.

Eddie van Rijnswoud will endeavour to process any last minute applications from members who may be contemplating purchasing a set of plates. The current cost is $205.00.  Please contact Eddie at bushfirevol@iinet.com.au for an application form.

Those who currently own BFS plates will in the future be able to transfer them to other vehicles or order replacements for plates that have been lost, stolen or damaged. These transactions are to be completed directly between the owner and the DoT.

FESA’s new Welfare Department and You

The following is from Wayne Gregson, FESA CEO, and describes how the oganisation’s new welfare department can help the volunteers.

14 February 2012
FESA General Circular No: 20/2012

WHAT FESA’S NEW WELFARE TEAM CAN DO FOR YOU

During my visits to volunteer and career stations I am often asked about what
FESA can do to support volunteers and staff who are undergoing personal
hardship and emotional pain.

The welfare and safety of FESA and Local Government volunteers, staff and
their families is an issue that I take very seriously and I have discussed this
with the FESA Chaplain, Ron Wingate on how we can better inform the ‘FESA
Family’ on what services are available to provide the necessary support and
assistance.

FESA’s welfare team, which is available to assist volunteers and staff, has
recently been expanded with a new officer Leon Fernandes who works
alongside Rob Kingma and the Welfare Coordinator Anneliese Smith.
Together, with Chaplain Ron Wingate the team can offer a wide range of
different services.

The team’s philosophy is focused on proactive prevention, building resilience
and caring and responding to an individual’s situation that has affected their
wellbeing.

Following the recent Margaret River fires the team was activated to support
volunteers and staff and they conducted group workshops as well as one-on-
one sessions.

One of the most important things to remember is that it’s normal to feel out of
sorts following a highly stressful incident or if you are dealing with a protracted
personal issue. Everyone is different and people cope with these situations in
their own way which may include feeling emotional, experiencing changes to
sleep and eating patterns or headaches.

The old adage ‘time heals all wounds’ is simply a myth. The longer a person
takes to seek help then they run the risk of inflicting emotional pain and
trauma on those nearby. I encourage volunteers or staff who require support
to take the appropriate action and contact the team as soon as possible.

Ron Wingate is available 24/7 and there are also regional support chaplains
on standby to deliver services for volunteers, staff and their families which
include:

• Critical incident stress management
• Grief support and counselling
• Weddings, funerals and visitations

Welfare Coordinator Anneliese Smith, who is a registered psychologist,
coordinates and promotes the team’s extensive programs. This includes the
Employee Assistance Program (professional counselling) and the Peer
Support Program.

The two welfare officers, Rob and Leon, are both uniformed career firefighters
and in addition to providing confidential support they also promote health and
wellness.

For more information the team’s general number is 1800 15 33 44 or direct
contact numbers include:

• Chaplain Ron Wingate – 9485 7800 (pager)
• Welfare Coordinator Anneliese Smith – 0437 702 806
• Robert (Hank) Kingma – 0419 308 358
• Leon Fernandes – 0409 758 988

This is an important service and I encourage volunteers and staff who need
support to take advantage of the high level of expertise and advice available
which can make a big difference to your life and peace of mind.

WAYNE GREGSON APM
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

FCO passes on thanks from FESA for Yelverton fire response

Hi All
A big thankyou for all the efforts and especially Barb for the callouts and arranging ferrying.  The Yelverton incident was potentially very dangerous though currently put to bed and sleeping hopefully not to be awakened.  DEC are doing the patrols at this time.

I received messages this morning from Andy and FESA Capes Region District Manager Danny Mosconi thanking everyone for the huge effort and they wanted me to make sure you all received their personal gratitude. Well done.

It goes without saying that our pump on the dam was a raging success supplying most of the water needs of the day in a timely manner with able assistance from Richard, Jay,  Gerald,  Chris, Bay and Joe.  It was good to get you Auxiliaries on the fire ground for  some real work .
The pump is still on the ground providing water to DEC and I expect to get it back tomorrow Tues.  We will have to give it a check over then.

Thanks again to all..  Lets hope for some decent rain from this cyclone.
Cheers
David

Brigade Kept Busy by Yelverton Fire

The brigade sent at least nine crews to the Yelverton fire, along with its new auxiliary team, Sunday and Monday, January 29 & 30.

The fire started when wind brought down a tree which in turn took down power lines around 6am Sunday. A full 4.4 crew was quickly assembled, shortly followed by the 1.4 along with the new pump and the LT. The auxiliary crew took over the pump later in the morning and all the crews were replaced at 4, apart from Annie and Mark who got off early for good behaviour (and their wedding anniversary.) The second shift was replaced by a skeleton crew at 10pm. They were replaced by another crew Monday morning.

Mark Fisher gets an “Eagle Eyes” award for noticing the fire had “spotted” in the adjacent national park. This was quickly attacked and controlled. Mitch gets the “all nighter” award for working two shifts-from 4pm Sunday until Monday morning.

The pump earned its keep, keeping the various assisting brigades filled and keeping the auxiliaries busy. And there were no complaints about the food. (Well, we think it was an Italian complement.)