The State Government has this morning announced the development of a Rural Fire Division as part of a $128.5 million investment towards fire and emergency services, a move welcomed by industry.
In addition to the Rural Fire Division, one of four command structures within the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, an $18 million Bushfire Centre of Excellence will be created, and bushfire mitigation efforts will be bolstered by $34.6 million.
WAFarmers President Tony York said the announcement had been a long time coming.
“We warmly welcome this morning’s announcement of $128.5 million towards critical fire and emergency services in the 2018-19 State Budget,” Mr York said.
“WAFarmers has been active in improving fire mitigation practices and the operation of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, and advocating for the implementation of a Rural Fire Service since the devastating fires in the communities of Esperance and Yarloop.
“While WAFarmers and other industry bodies have called for the government to outline its plans for some time now, we acknowledge the efforts of the Minister for Emergency Services Fran Logan in collaborating openly with stakeholders on the best way forward and the State Government’s implementation of the Ferguson Report recommendations.
“We look forward to seeing the details of the budgetary breakdown for this investment when the State Budget is handed down on 10 May.”
Mr York said the Rural Fire Division and first-of-its-kind Bushfire Centre of Excellence was a step forward in recognising the outstanding contributions and skills of bushfire response volunteers.
“Both the Rural Fire Division and Bushfire Centre of Excellence will provide more instantaneous reactions on the ground during fire situations, as well as more power to the people,” he said.
“Volunteer firefighters, often being the landowners themselves, are quite often the first on the scene during fire events, and their experience and knowledge of the land is critical in responding to bushfires and managing the spread.
“By increasing the input from and training of bushfire volunteers, the very best knowledge and experience in bushfire management and mitigation is being captured.
“With these new services now in development, we hope some confidence has been restored to the communities affected by recent catastrophic fires, and that they can move into the 2018-19 fire season with renewed hope in the mitigation and management processes.”
The investment will be funded through the Emergency Services Levy, which will see an increase to contributions from 1 July 2018.