Fires wreak havoc on WA

With Western Australian emergency services still battling numerous blazes, damage tallies are rising in the south-eastern end of the state where four people have been killed and thousands of hectares burned.

The initial blaze in the Esperance region was lit when lightning struck Cape Le Grand on Sunday morning, with more than 300 people evacuated from affected areas since.

An estimated 500 households in fire-damaged areas lost power, three homes have been lost, as well as a significant damage to crops.  

EBM Regional Director Ashton George says that the damage to crops will have a notable effect on the farming community.

“The lightning hit in Cape Le Grand and the fire spread from there, uncontrollably in some stages,” George says.

“They have lost about 20-25% of their crop value that would otherwise go to the bin for export market. That’s collectively across the whole region. It’s had a huge impact on the local community, considering that it was one of their bumper years.”

“It significant, considering the volume that Esperance contributes to the Western Australian farming export turnover,” George adds.

George says that some parts of the community are questioning whether there had been enough preparation for fire risks in the area.

“There are a few mixed opinions at the moment. Some of the locals are suggesting that a lot of the farmers and fire service committees have, in the past, put forward that there should be additional fire breaks in Cape Le Grand,” George explains.

“The feedback was that the nature reserve compliance requirements were that no firebreaks would go through a nature reserve.”

“But there’s also scepticism regarding whether or not breaks would have prevented the spread, too,” George adds.

Although the fires have wreaked havoc on the state, from Esperance to Grass Patch, the events have not been declared catastrophic.

ICA’s General Manager of Communications Campbell Fuller says: “The bushfires around Esperance in the south of Western Australia have not been declared an insurance catastrophe as the level of insured loss remains below the required threshold.”

“As a result, the ICA does not have precise data on the number or value of claims so far. The ICA is continuing to liaise with WA Agencies through that state’s recovery committee,” Fuller adds.