Kimberley firefighters battle tourists, arsonists in gear up for busy bushfire season Leave a comment


Emergency services in the Kimberley say they’re expecting a bushfire season as they continue to grapple with an influx of tourists and a region-wide spate of arson.

The National Council for Fire and Emergency Services released its bushfire outlook for Spring 2021 last week, with its report expected to inform firefighting efforts around the state from August to November.

The conditions outlined in the report indicate the Kimberley is currently in an above-average risk category due to high fuel loads of dried-out grass, and low moisture in the soil.

Kimberley superintendent Grant Pipe says while Kimberley bushfires typically run low and hot due to shrubbery, the current conditions present a new challenge for him and his firefighters.

“They’re not the fires that you would normally see around trickling along with the ground in a prescribed behaviour,” he said.

A fire danger rating sign next to scorched bushland.
The Bushfire Natural Hazards CRC is predicting increased risk of fires in parts of the Kimberley this weekend. (

Supplied: DFES/Evan Collis

)

‘Don’t argue, get moving’

The changing conditions will also be coupled with the challenges associated with tourists flocking to the north in record numbers, venturing out into remote areas with plans for a campfire and cooking.

It’s an issue Mr Pipe has already encountered, with the latest incident stemming from a bushfire that forced the closure of a popular tourist road running towards the Dampier Peninsula last week.

The Manari Road closure meant travellers had to be evacuated from the area at short notice, with firefighters going from camp to camp to warn people of the approaching danger.

“We want people to be compliant, we only move people for their own safety … if you are asked to move, don’t stand there and argue about it – get moving.”

A bushfire rages in the Kimberley, with a boab tree in the foreground of the picture.
The Bureau of Meteorology says the recent high temperatures have impacted the fire potential in the Kimberley.(

Tyne McConnon

)

Firefighters have also been tasked in recent weeks with dealing with a spate of deliberately lit fires in almost every major town in the Kimberley.

“In the last couple of days, over the weekend, we’re seeing a large number of fires both in Broome, Derby and Kununurra,” Mr Pipe said.

He said his volunteers had been stretched attending each separate incident and it was frustrating to have to divvy up resources coming into a volatile bushfire season.



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