Yarloop fire: residents claim warning too late

YARLOOP residents claim they had little warning before a fire swept through their town on Thursday, destroying 121 homes and structures.

Alan Coleman, who lived on Eastcott Street, said a warning came through at 5pm to go to the oval.

“But by then my house was on fire,” he said.

“Our house burnt down and we’ve got nothing.

“Nobody warned us – we thought the police would come around and tell us when we should leave.”

Mr Coleman and his partner Adelma Archer said they were ropeable at the lack of warning.

Fortunately, their house was insured, but they said many other residents who lost their homes weren’t insured.

Barry Goodwell said he received a text to go to the oval about five minutes before the fire burnt down the town.

Residents said they believed the lack of adequate warning may have been because SMS messages were going to Waroona residents, but Yarloop residents were in the Harvey district.

Incident Controller Greg Mair said it was “regretful” residents were not adequately warned, but said fire fighters were doing their best.

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said people were advised to leave the area or actively defend their homes from very early on that day (7 January).

“DFES always advises people to stay aware of their surroundings and take action for their own safety,” she said.

“There are a range of sources that you should check for information about bushfires.

“These include the DFES website www.dfes.wa.gov.au, the media, social media, staying in touch with family and neighbours and staying aware of your immediate surroundings.

For more information about how to prepare for bushfires, visit www.areyouready.wa.gov.au

“It is natural that people will have questions about what happened and these will answered as part of a full investigation.”