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Media Release

FESA announces investigation into major bushfires
Friday 11 February 2011 – 4:25 PM

The former Chair of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management has been appointed by FESA to investigate the major fires which occurred last weekend.


Chief Executive Officer Jo Harrison-Ward said following consultation with the Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson, Mr Stuart Ellis AM would conduct a Major Incident Review (MIR) into the bushfires at Redhill and Roleystone which destroyed 71 homes and damaged a further 39 properties.


“The Roleystone fire was one of the State’s worst bushfires with significant loss of property, but it can’t be investigated in isolation because the Redhill fire was also having a major impact on emergency services at the time,” she said.


“Mr Ellis, who was a former army officer who served with the SAS Regiment, is a highly respected internationally recognised fire management expert, who has the knowledge and expertise to undertake a review of this type.”


Ms Harrison-Ward said Mr Ellis’ background included strong operational experience as the Chief Officer and Chief Executive Officer of the Country Fire Service in South Australia as well as senior government appointments including:

  • assisting  the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission 2009
  • Chair of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management 2004
  • Victorian Auditor General’s Report on Fire Prevention and Preparedness 2003
  • inquiry into the operational response to the January 2003 bushfires in the ACT

Ms Harrison-Ward said the MIR would investigate FESA’s operational performance, the effectiveness of arrangements and assess the preparations leading up to the major fires at Redhill and Roleystone.


The terms of reference for the MIR include:

  • examine the effectiveness of preparedness leading up to the bushfires
  • assess the effectiveness of FESA’s public information systems
  • examine the effectiveness of the response to the bushfires including existing fire response procedures, multi-agency response and coordination, and resource deployment
  • recommend future bushfire management strategies, including any required improvements to existing arrangements including public communications, community advice systems, infrastructure, training and overall resourcing
  • examine any other matters relevant to the incident

“The MIR will include input from key stakeholders to ensure FESA is provided with a comprehensive and balanced assessment of its response to the fire,” she said.


“FESA is committed to continuous improvement, and the MIR is critical to learn about what went well and what can be done to improve the way we operate.”


Ms Harrison-Ward said the MIR was open and accountable, and the final report would be tabled in Parliament by the Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson and then released on FESA’s website.


She said the report was expected to be completed by 30 June 2011 to ensure that relevant outcomes and recommendations could be implemented prior to the 2011-12 bushfire season.


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