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Lez says ‘get a plan’

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Patricia Gill, Denmark Bulletin

“Make no mistake we will have another bushfire like that,” chief bushfire control officer Lez Baines warns of the likely repeat of another February bushfire.

Speaking at The Dam Fireready Sundowner on November 25, Lez urged all householders to leave rather than defend their properties in the event of a fire.

Staying to defend a property could cost lives and experience in bushfire fighting has taught him that he would never stay to defend his own property.

The 2015 Denmark Citizen of the Year and wife Marie lost their home in 2004 at Quinns Rocks in a fire prompting Lez to join a brigade after the couple moved to Denmark.

“We know what it means, the heartache, the pain, the lost memorabilia,” he said.

“Were we ready? No. We had no bloody idea.

“I urge you all to get a plan.

“We need to be all prepared.”

On the first day of the February bushfire in Denmark, which eventually wiped out bush, farmland and razed four houses, a grass fire had started on Mt Shadforth sparked by powerlines.

A passing fire fighter helicopter pilot saw the resident trying to put out the fire and extinguished the blaze.

Lez said that if that fire had taken off there would have been no resources to assist.

Likewise the consequences would have been dire if crews had not managed to stop the Bayview Rise bushfire when it jumped South Coast Highway.

“It could have been into the William Bay National Park, down the coastal heath, into Ocean Beach, down the inlet and into Denmark,” Lez said.

“It could have gone so, so much worse.”

Lez Baines with Kerry Grazulis painting
The surprise presentation of a painting by artist Kerry Grazulis of the February bushfires delights Lez Baines. Photo: Denmark Bulletin.

As it was the bushfire was among the most ferocious fires seen in WA, four of them ranked level four bushfires, burning out 60,000ha with Denmark recording the heaviest losses.

Six weeks after the fire started Lez was still receiving triple zero calls.

His job was to organise responses with crews and equipment always ready. This was not the case with residents.

“The beauty of the bushfire ready groups, which are a fantastic resource in incident management in Denmark is that all the groups work in exactly the same way,” Lez said.

“I can predict what they are doing.

“This is a valuable resource for our little town.

“If we have little enclaves that do their own thing, I don’t know about them.”

Lez said the reality of defending one’s own property was the heat, smoke, wind, lack of visibility and difficulty in breathing.

“Get yourself out while you can,” he said.

Other things to consider were power, fuel, water, having enough food and a driveway on which the fire truck could enter and turn around.

“If you call for an appliance I cannot guarantee that you will get one,” Lez said.

“You may be on your own for days.”

The decision for a crew to enter a property was up to the crew not the incident management who were not on the ground.

If the crew decided that it was not safe to enter a property incident management would not ‘second guess’ them.

“They’ve only got one neck; they’ve got loved ones at home,” Lez said.

“I urge you to really think hard on this and get out while you can.”

Denmark Bulletin 8 December 2022

See all the photos in the issue.

This article appeared in the Denmark Bulletin, 8 December 2022.


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