Yarloop fire: anger at lack of water

YARLOOP resident Barry Goodwill is angry about the lack of water for residents to defend their homes in the hours leading up to the inferno.

“WE were sacrificed – we didn’t have a hope in hell,” he said.

Mr Goodwill was one of 100 people and 30 fire fighters who were trapped in Yarloop overnight on Thursday, after fire engulfed their town.

“I went to put sprinklers on my roof, but the water went out,” he said.

“This was at about 10am or 11am on Thursday – several hours before the fire came.”

Mr Goodwill said he received a text message to take shelter on the oval about five minutes before the fire struck.

“Fortunately, the irrigation is hooked up to scheme water at the bowling club,” he said. “I think the water comes from Harvey.”

Mr Goodwill said the local fire fighters did not have a fitting to connect to the water pipes.

“It is a common fitting,” he said.

Despite his anger at the water situation, Mr Goodwill said he was one of the lucky ones because his house is still standing.

Water Corporation acting chief executive Mark Leathersich said he understood it was a very stressful time for the Yarloop community, and all those affected by the tragic loss of life and property following this devastating bushfire.

“I want to take this opportunity to offer my deepest sympathy, on behalf of everyone at Water Corporation,” he said.

Mr Leathersich said the Water Corporation had been working closely with emergency management agencies in responding to the current bushfire.

“As with most bushfires, water supply schemes are impacted by loss of power and Water Corporation has not been able to access water infrastructure in areas that are deemed unsafe by DFES,” he said.

“Due to the catastrophic nature of the fire, power and remote visibility to Yarloop was lost at 7.26am on 7 Jan. At that time the Yarloop tank was full. Once power was lost, water was unable to be transferred from the water treatment plant to the town’s tank, which impacted on Yarloop’s water supply.

“Generators were available to be mobilised, however we were and are still unable to enter the town until DFES determine it is safe to do so.

“People should be are aware that drinking water supplies cannot be guaranteed during a bushfire, because infrastructure is often damaged and power is often unavailable.

“I encourage residents to take note of advice from DFES including awareness that scheme water should not be relied on during bushfires.”

Mr Leathersich said the Water Corporation worked closely with DFES in the event of a bushfire so that fire fighters had the best access to available water supplies.

“Despite these efforts, there will often be a total loss of water,” he said.

“Once we are able to have access the town we will complete a damage assessment and determine a recovery plan to restore the water supply as soon as possible.

“The Water Corporation will be making available our assistance packages for our customers impacted by the bushfires.

“This includes the provision of a water allowance and waivers for fees relating to connection/water meter infrastructure.

People can call 13 13 85.

Mr Leathersich said all of the fire hydrants in Yarloop were operational.

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said bushfires were dangerous and some fires are unfortunately unstoppable.

“Over 450 fire and emergency services personnel have been working to contain the fires and reduce the impact on the community since Wednesday,” she said.