Mayor’s Desk: ADF needs to lift firefighting game at SWBTA
LIVINGSTONE Shire Mayor Bill Ludwig has doubled-down on calls for Australian Defence Force and their Shoalwater Bay Army Training Area (SWBTA) estate management to lift their game and work side-by-side with local brigades when it comes to wildfire control.
The call comes following a meeting this week with Rural Fire Brigades, where concerns were expressed about lack of ADF communications and support when fires, which start on ADF controlled land cross into local communities.
“The matters raised are at serious odds with the official responses received from ADF and an untenable situation given ADF is the largest single landowner occupying almost one-third of the Shire’s total landmass,” Cr Ludwig said.
“One brigade officer stated that it appeared the principal contractor was operating on a ‘shoestring’ budget. The officer reported that when called on to assist ADF’s contractors fight a fire, he had observed a number of serious issues.
“These issues included; SWBTA firebreaks being poorly maintained, concerns about contractor’s crewing levels and state of firefighting appliances, which in his opinion were well below the requirements to effectively manage the scale and frequency of SWBTA fire events.
“The recurring frequency and scale of these events is a critical public safety issue, exacerbated by a situation where ADF have no trained firefighting military personnel whatsoever.
“Of equal concern is the fact that SWTBA estate managers and contractors have had a longstanding position that once fires cross ADF’s property boundary it’s the local community’s problem.
“It is an appalling situation when local rural fire brigades and communities are left on ‘tender-hooks’ as a result of ADF’s poor communications track record, and this reported under-resourcing of fire management and firefighting capability.
“In recent years there have been successive major fires originating in Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area including; August/September 2019, October 2018, September 2017, and December 2016.
“What we urgently need is a full audit of the ADF’s prime contractor’s equipment on hand, number of trained firefighting capable staff, and their ready deployment capability.
“There also needs to be an immediate review of the terms of the prime contractor’s contracts and an MOU which incorporates a ‘good neighbour’ provision in relation to requiring them to operate alongside local brigades outside of their perimeters as and when required during major fire events and co-ordinated cool burns.”