26 September 2023

Minister responds to fire deaths inquiry

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Minister for Emergency Services, Francis Logan has responded to the Coroner’s recommendations from the inquest into the deaths of four people during the Esperance bushfires in 2015.

The recommendations include increased mitigation, greater bushfire management support for Esperance and surrounds, long-term bushfire risk mitigation funding, and enhanced radio communications for the Esperance area.

Overseas farm workers, Tom Butcher, Julia Kohrs-Lichte and Anna Winther, and Scaddan farmer and firefighter, Kym (Freddy) Curnow died during the fires.

Mr Logan said the Government supported the majority of the Coroner’s recommendations, many of which had already been implemented.

“The recommendation for a career fire station in Esperance has already been addressed with a Departmental resource-to-risk analysis showing there are already sufficient town-based emergency services resources,” Mr Logan said.

“There has also been significant reform across bushfire management, and record investment to identify and treat bushfire risks, which has benefited Esperance and the surrounding regions.”

He said the Shire of Esperance was currently being supported by State Government funding to complete a Bushfire Risk Management (BRM) Plan, which was 95 per cent complete, and had identified nearly 2,100 assets.

“That support includes the assistance of a Bushfire Risk Planning Coordinator from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to help develop the Shire’s BRM Plan,” the Minister said.

“In addition, DFES has been transformed from a solely response Agency to one that focuses on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery functions.”

He said further initiatives in Esperance included an additional command repeater that was installed at Peak Charles in June to improve radio communications in the area.

“DFES has also reduced the size of the Great Southern Region by creating the Upper Great Southern Region in Narrogin to increase the focus on the Lower Great Southern Region,” Mr Logan said.

“In the last few years, ahead of bad fire weather, DFES has pre-positioned extra support personnel and aerial support appliances. Earthmoving machinery has also been strategically pre-positioned.”

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