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WA fire crew protection rollout incomplete

AAP logoAAP 9/11/2016

A more than three-year-old WA election promise to install crew protection systems in firefighting trucks has not yet been fully rolled out, a parliamentary committee has heard.

In 2013, then-emergency services minister Troy Buswell pledged the Liberals would fund the installation of 667 systems in Department of Fire and Emergency Services and local government firefighting vehicles that operate in high-risk areas.

DFES commissioner Wayne Gregson told a hearing on Wednesday that various fleets were at different stages of progress, and while all had burn-over blankets, automated vehicle location (AVL) systems were only partly done.

The systems also include truck deluge/sprays to protect firefighters from flames and breathing apparatuses.

"It's been a long and complex process. We've got a range of vehicles of different types with different engineering challenges and I think we're really making great progress," Mr Gregson told reporters outside the hearing.

"Most vehicles engaged in firefighting this year will be covered by AVL and that will be an absolute godsend for both building a better operational picture for us but also in terms of firefighter safety.

"The distress button as part of that package will really enable the crews greater protection."

An inquest concluded on Monday into the October 2012 death of firefighter Wendy Bearfoot, who was trapped in her truck in the Black Cat Creek bushfire near Albany.

Some of her colleagues suffered serious burns.

A DFES investigation in 2013 found the firefighters were not warned about about a deadly wind change until moments before the flames engulfed their vehicles.

DFES deputy commissioner Lloyd Bailey, who attended the inquest, told the hearing it appeared briefings hadn't been effective, with information communicated "but not absorbed".

Mr Gregson said about 600 vehicles would have AVL systems installed by December.

"At the moment, it's on schedule."

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