Hot summer expected for Falcon Fire and Rescue volunteers


Volunteer firefighters Stuart Marshall and Mike Firman. Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au   d463786
Volunteer firefighters Stuart Marshall and Mike Firman. Picture: Jon Hewson        www.communitypix.com.au d463786

SUMMER is expected to be a hot one by Falcon’s Fire and Rescue volunteers.

They’ve already recorded 20 calls this month, some relating to deliberately lit fires.

As the school holidays go on, Mandurah residents could see more of these types of fires.

Dave Muhleisen has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 27 years.

He has seen a lot over that time and was in Lake Clifton during the Waroona fires last year.

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He said social media panic and speculation was something that had become worse over time.

“I’m worried the community is developing a bit of a pitchfork mentality,” he said.

“It’s hard to differentiate between the first deliberately lit fire and future ignitions.

“That’s where you get the public saying ‘He’s back again or she’s back again’.

“The fire might be lit five times in one day or it might be embers.”

In recent times residents tended to panic and take to Facebook when they saw more than one fire engine, according to Mr Muhleisen.

But this is just the Department of Fire and Emergency Services policy.

“They think ‘I’ve seen four, so it must be big’,” he said.

“Three to four stations can arrive, as the policy is to get the fire out as quick as possible.”

He said they had some issues at the fires in Coodanup recently.

“People were saturating the fill-up point getting video of choppers and we had to get police to move people back,” he said.

“People were sitting on the water bank near where tonnes of water were being dropped.

“They think they’ll get some cool footage, but really they’re a pain. It’s just one more thing to worry about.”

Volunteer Kim Glass is carrying on the family tradition. His father has been a volunteer at the same station since 1988.

“I just want people to keep more of a lookout,” he said.

“People will get on Facebook about a fire instead of calling 000.”

The five-day-long fires in Coodanup were the biggest these volunteers had seen for a while.

“It’s family, work, fire brigade,” Mr Muhleisen said.

“We couldn’t do what we do without our family backing us up.

“Sometimes the adrenaline is great and other days it’s eight hours of dragging a hose through sand.”

To fight the firebugs, last year WA Police recruited extra officers to take part in Operation Vulcan, which had police officers investigate every deliberately lit fire.

Firebugs who get caught can face serious penalties; if they’re under 16 they go straight into the Juvenile and Fire Family Awareness Program (JAFFA).

Adults can face possible jail time. Recently two volunteer firefighters were sentenced to a year in prison.