WA fires: An open letter to all the armchair critics in Yarloop

Kirsten Bendtsen is a resident in the town of Yarloop and her daughter Cathy Bendtsen posted this open letter to Facebook on her behalf on Wednesday.

A bushfire fire left Yarloop in ruins, destroying At least 128 homes, and 143 properties in total.
A bushfire fire left Yarloop in ruins, destroying At least 128 homes, and 143 properties in total. Photo: Jason Bloxsidge

The letter is a response to reports Yarloop residents only received 25 minutes warning before a firestorm tore through their tiny town on Thursday, killing two people, and anger from other residents frustrated there was no door-to-door alert of the impending blaze.

You should be very ashamed of yourselves, running around criticising the people who put their own life on the line to try and keep you and everyone else as safe as they possibly could during the devastating fire in our town.

Exhausted firefighters kip on the lawn outside Harvey fire station.
Exhausted firefighters kip on the lawn outside Harvey fire station.  Photo: Michael Reynolds

If you want to throw blame around make sure you aim it in the right direction, and I suggest that you start by aiming it at yourself.

How can you say Yarloop residents were only given 25 minutes warning before the fire hit?


We received two messages shortly before 10pm on Wednesday, January 6, one on my mobile phone and one on our landline phone. So that was close to 24 hours before the fire hit.

Don't tell me we were the only people in Yarloop to get that message because I am not going to believe you.

I myself happened to be up in Perth and had planned on coming back home on the Thursday, but I knew by Thursday morning that wouldn't be possible.

I had no trouble finding the information that told me which roads were closed, the information was there on the Department of Fire and Emergency Service's website, but you have to look for it yourself.

The Yarloop Hotel was destroyed by fire.
The Yarloop Hotel was destroyed by fire. 

It's called taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions, not waiting for other people to come and take you by the hand and tell you what to do.

My husband was one of the people who stayed in town, and he reckons you would have had to be blind and deaf not to know that the fire was getting closer and heading straight for town.

There were DFES boys in town doing their best to keep you all safe down on the oval.

How did you expect them to put the fire out when there was no water? Don't blame the firefighters for that!

Even if they had had the benefit of water, no amount of water would have stopped that fire.

We were one of the lucky few, even if we lost our shed with everything in it we still have a house. Why we were spared and a lot of other people were not I am not sure, but it could have something to with the fact we always keep our yard tidy and free of debris and on Thursday my husband was out there wetting everything down around the house.

That is called preparing yourself and that is what DFES asked you to do if you decided to stay.

So once again, I reckon you armchair critics should be very ashamed of yourself. The volunteers and the DFES personnel put their own lives on the line to try and keep whingers like you safe.

The DFES boys worked very, very hard – some of them were on their feet for 24 hours or more. One of my sons was one of them and his brothers, my husband and I are very proud of him.

So come on people of Yarloop, I know we all will be going through some difficult months, but let's all pull together and build this little town up again.

Stop this negativity with blaming people just because you are upset about what happened to our town.

When this is all over I am sure there is some blame that will be allocated, but it is definitely not towards DFES or the volunteers.

Mr Wayne Gregson, my whole family salutes your boys and the volunteers. They all did the best they could – you can't ask more than that of anybody.