ACT News


'We tend to punch above our weight': ACT joins WA firefighting efforts

Five ACT incident management specialists have been sent to Western Australia to relieve their fatigued counterparts battling an enormous bushfire that has killed two people.

The three volunteers from ACT Rural Fire Service and two members from ACT Fire and Rescue are part of a 62-person team, also made up of NSW and Queensland firefighters, that has joined the fight.

The move comes after NSW recently sent 60 frontline firefighters to the west in attempt to extinguish the fire that has burned more than 71,000 hectares and destroyed 128 homes in the state's south-west since it was sparked by lighting last Wednesday.

Although the incident specialists will not be battling the blaze, ACT Fire and Rescue chief officer Mark Brown said they are responsible for overseeing the firefighting effort.

"They'll be making sure there are enough resources on the ground, that people are operating safely, that the incident action plan is being implemented, that reports are being made back to government," he said.

"These sorts of fires can involve literally thousands of people, and it all needs to be coordinated, so this team does that."


This responsibility will be challenged in an unfamiliar area with slightly different resources, Mr Brown said.

But he also said Australia has a common incident management system and they'll be assisted by locals.

The extreme heatwave in Canberra poses "very high fire danger" in the coming days, he said.

"But there'll be a cool change Thursday evening and the small number of people we're sending won't impact on the capability should there be a fire in the ACT".

There are about 340 Fire and Rescue fighters, 530 Rural Fire Service volunteers and 150 government Parks Brigade members in the ACT.

Mr Brown said he'd have to assess the fire conditions and requests by the WA government before sending over any more firefighters, and would not agree to do so if there were total fire bans and existing fires in the ACT region.

Victorian firefighters could not contribute to this team due to fires in their own region.

The ACT members will be replaced by other personnel after five to seven days if assistance is still needed.

"ACT is quite good at contributing to these multi-agency teams given our small size. We do tend to punch above our weight and our contribution far outweighs the size of our firefighting force," Mr Brown said.

"It's a great development for our people and they'll come back better prepared to coordinate major fires in Canberra when and if they occur."

The deployment comes as the federal government announced on Tuesday it will financially assist people affected by the WA bushfires.