Team work, interagency cooperation and good systems prevented a potentially significant incident in Rosa Brook, near Margaret River, in February.
Rosa Brook Bush Fire Brigade (BFB) Captain Richard Moroney has observed several Level 3 incidents in his five years as a volunteer and said the response went as smoothly as one could hope.
“Due to conditions and strong winds there was potential for this fire to escalate rapidly, impacting rural farmland, the community of Margaret River and infrastructure in difficult and inaccessible terrain,” Richard said.
Aerial firebombing support was compromised by thick billowing smoke obscuring visibility.
Shire of Augusta-Margaret River Chief Bush Fire Control Officer (CBFCO) David Holland said there was a rapid response from services and an initial period of intense firefighting, which reduced the severity of the incident.
“The firefighters managed to steer the fire around several properties and stopped it from burning into the Margaret River reserve and national park,” David said.
Richard described efforts by firefighters at one of the properties under threat.
“We initially accessed the property with some bolt cutters and found a very distressed home owner. She was sent to a safe control point while we called in more appliances,” he said.
“At one point there was a wall of flames heading for us and there were a lot of spot fires starting in paddocks.
“Fortunately the property was very well prepared, as well as it could have been, so we had access to water and the space around the house was clear.”
Lower South West Superintendent John Tillman said that the management of the fire was a credit to the shire and the CBFCO, who have been working hard to develop incident management capacity and capability.
“The skills and expertise that have been developed within the shires’ firefighting structure means that they can confidently manage incidents such as this with support from DFES and Parks and Wildlife (P&W) personnel on a needs basis.”
Richard felt the interagency cooperation and coordination sped up the response.
“The overall response and coordination was fantastic with no shortage of volunteers or appliances including BFB, DFES, P&W, and farmer response,” he said.
“The capabilities of the DFES Incident Control Vehicle, and the team of volunteers who operate it, are amazing, providing invaluable support to the incident management team in the field.
“At the end of the day, the fire doesn’t care what colour your uniform is.”
David said the Capes Enhanced Service Delivery project, introduced after the 2011 Margaret River bushfires, resulted in additional appliances, capability and inter agency response arrangements, and made a big impact on scaling up response.
“An O-Zone response procedure was followed with ComCen mobilising the nearest Bush Fire Brigade, a Parks and Wildlife officer with an appliance, and fixed wing air support,” he said.
“We also used a number of BFB members from our pre-formed Incident Management Team to fill the key roles including the Incident Controller, Operations, Public Information and Sector Commanders. Everyone was able to hit the ground running.”
After the incident DFES facilitated an inter-agency debrief at the request of Augusta-Margaret River CBFCO David Holland.
“There were a number of positive outcomes highlighted, as well as a number of key lessons for future management of incidents such as this in our area,” he said.