Stickers identify qualified helpers

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter

Waroona residents and farmers with vital local knowledge and fire-fighting equipment were forced to look on as their houses went up in flames in the 2016 Waroona-Yarloop Bushfires.

In the first 24 hours of the blaze these same people had been fighting the fires alongside volunteer brigades.

Full water tanks and bulldozers stood idle, residents unable to use them to fight the blaze.

But as the fire grew and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services took control of the situation, these residents were refused re-entry into the evacuation zone.

“When it was taken over by DFES we weren’t allowed to re-enter,” Waroona shire president Mike Walmsley said.

This was done as a safety measure, to prevent inexperienced people putting their own safety at risk, or the safety of fireys who might need to rescue them.

This is the situation the Waroona Shire Council is hoping to avoid with the introduction of new vehicle identification stickers.

The stickers will allow civilian vehicles to enter an evacuation zone in the event of a bushfire or other emergency and provide support to emergency services.

DFES has set minimum criteria that must be met to qualify for the ID stickers to ensure people have the necessary equipment and background to help.

“We don’t want them heading into a fire knowing that they are not capable of defending themselves or property,” Cr Walmsley said.

“Ultimately, the incident controller determines and manages access to and from an incident depending on the circumstances”.

The council has endorsed the use of the system for the next two bushfire seasons

The idea for the stickers stemmed from the results of the Ferguson Special Inquiry into the 2016 blaze.

“If people can help and are capable of helping during a bushfire, for God’s sake let them help,” Cr Walmsley said. “Hopefully we will never have another one.

“But if we do, there is a reserve army just sitting there that we can utilise.”

Residents can apply for the stickers at the council administation.

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