Darlington residents fund own bushfire threat siren

Darlington Siren Alert co-ordinator Phil Vile with the new siren to alert residents to fire danger.
Darlington Siren Alert co-ordinator Phil Vile with the new siren to alert residents to fire danger.

A SIREN blast to alert people to a bushfire threat will sound out across Darlington from December when a group of residents launch their self-funded warning system.

Darlington Siren Alert co-ordinator Phil Vile said the electrically-operated siren had enough power to cover about 165 homes and alert more than 600 residents in the area.

He said the siren would not replace Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) warnings.

“Due to the problem of poor internet and mobile phone reception in Darlington, many of us cannot get DFES warnings and it’s not always possible to catch the tell-tale signs DFES asks us to look out for,” he said.

A DFES spokeswoman told the Gazette it supported any tool to help communities stay informed of bushfires.

Living in a fire-prone area where early warnings are critical led the group to review warning systems used elsewhere.

Mr Vile said bushfires in recent years had demonstrated fire warnings often came too late.

Trials of the siren began in September and recent tests established the range and directional ability to cover the central area of Dalry Road, Hillsden Roads and Stone Crescent.

“It was never an option to do a ‘whole of Darlington’ siren, due to the costs involved,” Mr Vile said.

The tests helped identify the wind direction affect and where ‘sound shadows’ existed in the area mapped out.

Mr Vile said the group met with Bushfire Ready street co-ordinators before acting on a suggestion to reinstate the village fire siren.

“I approached DFES and the local volunteer fire brigade, as well as the Shire of Mundaring for their input and possible help, but none was offered and indeed I was actively discouraged,” he said.

“We decided if anything was going to get done, we were the ones to have to do it.”

The decision to buy a “safety-switch blocking” system came after consultation with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Mr Vile said community sirens were in use for country areas of the state.

“We did not go to the local hardware store and buy any old siren,” he said.

Bushfire Ready street co-ordinators will operate the siren alert through the summer months until the end of March.

Shire chief executive Jonathan Throssell said the Shire was not against the idea of a siren, but did not have a formal position.

“Fire sirens are a recommendation in the recent Ferguson report as a result of the Waroona/Yarloop fires,” he said.

“The Shire is currently awaiting the State Government’s detailed response to the report and all 17 recommendations.”

He said if the State supported the idea, the Shire would develop a policy and guidelines.

“The implementation of sirens, if and when they occur, may well add to the arsenal of warnings,” he said.

“However, these sirens would need to fit in with all the existing local emergency management arrangements.”

A Darlington Volunteer Bushfire Brigade spokesman said the brigade had reservations and did not support the idea.

“We believe there are currently several effective ways the community can be made aware of fire incidents during the fire season,” he said.

Darlington and Boya residents in internet black spots can expect work to begin soon on the National Broadband Network.

NBN spokeswoman Ebony Aitken said construction of the network would start in the area early next year.

“While we would like to connect everyone at the same time, we are constrained by economic and physical resources,” she said.