West Australian fire commissioner Wayne Gregson has said it was ‘incomprehensible’ residents of Yarloop had no idea a fire was bearing down on them.
The community claimed government agencies were too slow to respond to the fire threat, and notify them of the danger.
Yarloop was devastated by bushfires last week. A 73-year-old man and 77-year-old male were killed and more than 140 properties were lost when the erratic bushfire razed the town.
A watch and act message remained in place for the area on Tuesday morning.
The department issued warnings in Waroona and Harvey shire, which cover Yarloop, that advised people to evacuate on Wednesday night.
The first time the town was explicitly mentioned in an alert was at 7.35pm on Thursday, just 25 minutes before the fire reached the town.
“We could see the smoke. We were tracking the smoke. And we of course there was a fire, but it wasn’t till it got real bad winds, and still we got no warning,” resident Mary Lawson told the ABC.
But Mr Gregson said there was adequate warning and that residents must take responsibility for their own safety.
“You cannot be sitting home and waiting to get a text before you take responsibility for your own safety, your own personal safety,” he said.
“If you are waiting for a policeman or a fire-fighter to come and knock on your door and tell you that it’s time to go, you are potentially leaving it too late and you’re putting yourself and your family at risk.”
Although authorities hoped conditions were improving, forecast weather could hamper recovery efforts.
High winds and thunderstorms, coupled with a maximum temperature of 37 degrees was expected in the West Australian town of Harvey later this week, while Waroona could reach 35 degrees on Friday.
“We’ve had a couple of days of mild weather and we appear to be on top of the fire, which is contained but not controlled, and in the meantime we are getting people back to the community and doing assessments on the emergency area,” Harvey Shire Mayor Tania Jackson told AAP on Monday night.
“But just when we think we’re moving into recovery we’ve had spot fires today and we’ve got looming bad weather – high winds and thunderstorms – coming in by the end of the week, so we might be repeating what we had last week.”
Fears about asbestos contamination and damaged trees have prevented some people from returning to homes that were spared from the flames, she said.
The cost of the blaze is at least $60 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.
– with AAP