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Out of control wildfires spark call for increased prevention work

Oct 01, 2015

As Kimberley rangers are called in to battle wildfires burning across the region, the KLC calls for greater focus on prevention instead of suppression.

As wildfires burn out of control across the Kimberley and a total fire ban is declared, the Kimberley Land Council has called for increased fire prevention and prescribed burning.  

Deputy CEO Tyronne Garstone said a number of KLC ranger groups had been called in to help battle wildfires near Warmun, Derby, Bidyadanga and across the Dampier Peninsula in the past week.

Although he praised the work of the rangers, authorities and volunteers, he said prevention not suppression was the key to reducing wildfires.

“Our rangers have been working hard to supress wildfires and the work they have been doing in conjunction with other authorities has prevented significant infrastructure damage and loss. I commend all their efforts,’’ he said.

“But the most effective way to reduce wildfires is prevention. We need to focus our efforts on fire management and prescribed burning during the early dry season.

“Our Kimberley rangers are experts in fire management and spend significant hours conducting prescribed burning, but it’s definitely a team effort with pastoralists and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

“The Kimberley is twice the size of the state of Victoria, covering 432,000sq km. That’s a huge area to cover and we are doing the very best we can in fire management with the resources we have, but more work can always be done.’’

The KLC-facilitated Kimberley Ranger Network conducts the most prescribed burning out of any agency across the region. During the 2015 fire season, the 13 Kimberley ranger groups continued to undertake annual fire planning workshops and conduct early dry season prescribed burns both on the ground and through the use of helicopters.

Kimberley ranger groups spent a combined total of 354 days conducting on-ground prescribed burning between March and June 2015, while more than 440 hours of aerial burning was completed across the region.  In addition to 80 rangers, more than 122 Traditional Owners were employed as advisers or casual staff to undertake fire management activities.

Mr Garstone said although fire prevention and prescribed burning was included as part of ranger work plans, fire suppression for community assets and infrastructure was not. Protection of these assets is the primary responsibility of DFES.

In the past week, five of our ranger groups have spent a number of days fighting wildfires. Although they play a significant role in fire suppression, this is not part of their duties,’’ he said.

The Nyikina Mangala Rangers spent four days last week fighting fires along the Derby to Fitzroy road and around the RAAF and Curtin Immigration Detention Centre.

Mr Garstone said through a collaborative effort working alongside DFES, RAAF Airbase firefighters and Derby volunteer firefighters, the group were able to save many significant assets that were under threat.

“Our rangers are always ready to lend a helping hand to fight fires and protect our community,’’ he said.

“But for us the more work we can do in fire prevention, the less work we have to do in fire suppression and that’s  a win-win for our rangers, our communities and our environment.’’