Concerns raised about the choice to lead an inquiry into fatal bushfire in Western Australia

The government of Western Australia is conducting an inquiry into the Waroona Bushfire that in early January, 2016 killed two people, burned 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres), and destroyed 95 homes near Yarloop. Some of the residents were evacuated by boat after they found themselves trapped between the Indian Ocean and the fire.

Below is an excerpt from an article in The Australian:

The man appointed to lead an ­independent inquiry into the ­Yarloop bushfire, Euan Ferguson, ran South Australia’s rural fire service when it was heavily criticised in a coronial report for failing to warn the public about a fire that killed nine people in 2005.

The finding is relevant because Mr Ferguson is now examining complaints from angry Yarloop residents that they also were not adequately warned about the blaze last month in which two people died.

Mr Ferguson was in charge of the Country Fire Service during the so-called Black Tuesday bushfire in Port Lincoln that destroyed 93 homes and wiped out 77,000ha of land [in 2005].

South Australia’s deputy coroner, Anthony Schapel, found the CFS under Mr Ferguson failed to adequately warn the public when the fire began and did not adequately respond to the fire.

“The community to the southeast and east of the fireground were unaware of the risk of the fire in many instances until it was too late,” Mr Schapel found in 2007.

“The fact of the matter was that no adequate measures were put in place or attempted which meant that opportunities to alter the outcome were not taken.

“Because the risk to the public was never properly addressed or appreciated, none of those measures were ever adequately considered. For the same reason no adequate warning was given.”

Yarloop residents say Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services failed to convey the danger they faced before the deadly bushfire destroyed their town on January 7.

The department did not issue its first emergency warning that explicitly mentioned Yarloop until 7.35pm — just minutes before the fire hit…

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+