Comprehensive bushfire response welcomed

Comprehensive bushfire response welcomed

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GUIDELINE GO-AHEAD: Harrogate and Mount Torrens sheep producer David Turner was hopeful minimum standards for farm firefighting units would persuade farmers to upgrade their equipment.

GUIDELINE GO-AHEAD: Harrogate and Mount Torrens sheep producer David Turner was hopeful minimum standards for farm firefighting units would persuade farmers to upgrade their equipment.

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The state government's comprehensive response to the review of SA's 2019-20 bushfire season has been released, and has been largely well-received by relevant stakeholders.

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The state government's comprehensive response to the review of SA's 2019-20 bushfire season has been released, and has been largely well-received by relevant stakeholders.

On Friday last week, a $49-million action plan was unveiled, in addition to the $48.5m announced in July, taking the total bushfire response package to $97.5m.

Of the extra $49m, the Department of Environment and Water has been allocated $37m for prescribed burns - $24m on public land and $13m on privately-owned land. The $37m will be spent across the next five years, with the aim of increasing DEW's prescribed burns program by 50 per cent in that time frame.

The remaining $11.95m will be allotted to the Emergency Services sector, for Country Fire Service regional staffing enhancements, upgrades to CFS stations and incident management facilities, mental health support for emergency services personnel, and enhanced technology and communications.

"Our emergency services staff and volunteers deserve the upmost respect for their extraordinary efforts to protect lives and property," Emergency Services Minister Vincent Tarzia said.

"The comprehensive response outlines how we can support these groups, so that SA is better prepared for its next bushfire emergency."

Including the state government's initial July response, which announced the deployment of 25 new trucks for the upcoming season, better protection for critical assets, and improved information deliverance before and during bushfires, the overall comprehensive response details 69 response actions.

Of these actions, 27 are interim responses, with the remaining 42 being longer-term actions.

All 69 actions are in response to the 68 findings and 15 recommendations outlined in the Keelty review.

A progress report on the 69 action items will be delivered in September next year.

Opposition emergency services spokesperson Lee Odenwalder said the state government's response to the review was "far from comprehensive" and lacked adequate detail on exact time frames for action.

Some farmers may upgrade their FFUs to be able to register them, others likely won't upgrade but will keep using them anyway, without registering. - DAVID TURNER

"It is unclear exactly how the $13m allocated for 'increased capacity' for fuel reduction on private land and education for landholders will be spent," he said.

CFS Volunteers Association president Andy Wood was happy with the government's response, particularly the interim action to amend legislation to appoint an independent chair to the SA Fire and Emergency Services Commission.

While recommendations surrounding farm firefighting units were left out of the July response, the comprehensive response has addressed their use.

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Longer-term actions of the response include the incorporation of FFUs into the Australasian Inter Service Incident Management System, as well as the engagement of CFS with relevant stakeholders to develop minimum standards of personal protective equipment (PPE) and equipment for FFUs. Information on accredited FFUs will be incorporated into the CFS database.

Fire-affected Harrogate and Mount Torrens sheep producer David Turner supported the idea of minimum standards for FFUs, but was sceptical about how many farmers would upgrade.

"Some farmers may upgrade their FFUs to be able to register them, others likely won't upgrade but will keep using them anyway, without registering," he said.

"But if some people are persuaded to upgrade their equipment, that will be worth it."

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