Bushfires are a fact of life living in Western Australia, and over the past couple of years we have seen first-hand the devastating destruction they cause. With over 90 percent of the state bushfire-prone, fire is a real, credible threat.
Since taking on the role of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner, one of my key priorities is to have a greater focus on bushfire mitigation. With improved management of vegetation, firefighters will have a better chance of getting on top of bushfires quicker, before they impact lives and homes.
This focus is being spearheaded by the Bushfire Centre of Excellence, as reported in the Mandurah Mail (page 1, March 7).
The new centre will ensure WA has the best access to bushfire knowledge, training, technical expertise, science and research.
The first-of-its-kind centre will be run by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, but will be a facility for everyone.
It won’t matter what agency you’re from, whether you’re a volunteer or paid, in private enterprise or local government, everyone will have access to the training and resources. On the fire ground we work side by side to save lives, so it’s natural we should be training and learning together.
One of the centre’s key priorities will be the collaborative development and delivery of training courses.
A strong digital presence will allow those in remote areas to tap into training, academia and science resources without having to travel to the centre.
Another key area we’re excited to develop further is incorporating the knowledge of Aboriginal people in fire management.
As traditional custodians of our land, Aboriginal people have a unique relationship with fire, and for thousands of years naturally recurring fire has been harnessed for a range of purposes including managing and maintaining vegetation. It’s recognised more as a tool than a threat.
I’m excited that the centre will be based at the new Peel Business Park in Nambeelup.
The Shire of Murray is an ideal location due to its close proximity to transport, ample accommodation options and it being close to bushland to conduct training. DFES will be working with the Shire to ensure the facility design captures the area's essence.
Ultimately this centre will enable us to better manage bushfires, helping to save precious lives, homes and our environment - that’s a win for every single West Australian.
Darren Klemm is WA Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner.