News State Western Australia News Joe Francis slams Opposition criticism over fatal Albany bushfire as ‘political mileage’

Joe Francis slams Opposition criticism over fatal Albany bushfire as ‘political mileage’

The trucks stalled and the firefighters were unable to get out of the path of the fire.
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The Emergency Services Minister has blasted as “highly insensitive” Opposition comments about a fatal Albany bushfire.

Firefighter Wendy Bearfoot died, and three other firefighters were injured, in last October’s bushfire at Two People’s Bay after their trucks were engulfed in flames.

A subsequent report criticised the agencies involved and the way they worked together.

Labor has attacked the Government’s response to the fire and the time it took to release the report.

That has angered the Minister Joe Francis.

“I think it’s actually a bit sick for the Opposition to be trying to make political mileage out of a tragic event like that,” he said.

But Labor’s Margaret Quirk has criticised the suggestion.

“Far from making political mileage out of it, the Opposition is doing its job,” she said.

Ms Quirk says her intention has been to ensure lessons are learned from the tragedy.

Firefighters not warned

A review of the bushfire found authorities failed to warn the firefighters about changing wind conditions, as a spot fire weather forecast had not been passed on to the incident management team.

As a result, the four firefighters were not aware of the changing conditions until the bushfire was upon them.

Their trucks stalled and then were engulfed in the fire-storm during the blaze at Two People’s Bay.

Three of the firefighters sheltered together under one fire blanket but Ms Bearfoot was caught by the flames, suffering fatal burns.

The incident was initially managed by the City of Albany, with support from the Department of Environment and Conservation, now known as the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The Department and Fire and Emergency Services became involved as the bushfire intensified.

The report made 10 recommendations, including ensuring critical operational procedures such as “red flag warnings” are used by all agencies involved in fire incidents.

It also recommends all fire managers are trained to correctly interpret spot fire weather forecasts.

DFES says it has taken a number of actions in response to each recommendation, and Albany has launched a separate review to identify ways to better support and guide its 16 volunteer bushfire brigades.