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WA bushfire service result of Yarloop fire

AAP logoAAP 29/09/2016

The West Australian government has been urged to focus on practical ways to prevent and fight bushfires, rather than getting tied up in how the bureaucracy of a new rural service should operate.

The state government has accepted all 17 recommendations from a report into the lightning-sparked blaze in Yarloop in January, which killed two men and almost wiped out the historic town.

Establishing a dedicated country firefighting service was the key recommendation.

The state government is yet to decide whether it should be a stand-alone entity or a sub-department of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

DFES commissioner Wayne Gregson said a lot needed to be thrashed out, including whether the new entity reported to him.

The Association of Volunteer Bushfire Brigades says it is delighted with the state government's assurance the service will be highly independent.

The United Firefighters Union, however, says another service isn't needed - but more money for firefighting personnel, equipment and facilities is.

"If we're serious about protecting regional WA, then we'd be looking at spending some money," WA branch secretary Lea Anderson told AAP.

"There's no point in creating a new bureaucracy. You need to put that money where it's going to be effective, and that is inclusive and respectful of the work that volunteer firefighters do."

Ms Anderson said the union believed little had been done to improve firefighting capability in the Esperance region, where four people died in lightning-sparked blazes in November.

"Not a single new job has been created in that area and no significant capital resources have been spent," she said.

Apart from the new rural service, Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said other significant changes included identification for volunteers to address fire ground access problems and installing automated location systems in fire trucks to improve crew safety and resource deployment.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the main priority should be prescribed burning, with WA's 200,000-hectare target not met over the past eight years.

Mr McGowan said that was "frankly appalling".

""Prevention is better than cure.," he told reporters.

He said he supported additional resourcing for the regions and was relaxed about how that was achieved - so long as it didn't mean unnecessary bureaucracy.

"The government has been too focused on structures and reports and analysis rather than resourcing burn-offs and resourcing regional fire services," he said.

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