Ellenbrook: Fire warning system not activated

Jasmine Holling, with Poppy (3) and William (6), said she did not get an alert or police warning to evacuate even when the fires were close to her home.  Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au   d447154
Jasmine Holling, with Poppy (3) and William (6), said she did not get an alert or police warning to evacuate even when the fires were close to her home. Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au d447154

SOME Ellenbrook residents first knew about last Sunday⿿s bushfire only when neighbours came to their door to warn them it was encroaching on their back fence.

Residents around the “danger end” of Charlottes Vista (where the fire approached from) said they were worried Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ emergency telephone warning system was not used.

They also claim police who were door-knocking to evacuate residents started at the street side where houses were not under immediate threat.

Oakhill Heights resident Jasmine Holling was busy looking after her three children when the fire was less than 100m away.

“The first I knew of it was when my kid said ‘Mummy, there’s lots of smoke outside’,” she said.

“I went outside and panicked because I was on my own with the kids so my neighbour said she’d let me know if it got any closer… five minutes later, she came and told me she was evacuating.

“When I drove down the street, there were police door-knocking at the houses that weren’t the ones closest to the fire.”

Duty Chief Superintendent for the fire Murray Bawden said by the time the first police officers arrived, a significant uncontrolled bushfire was already established.

“Homes and lives were under threat and police officers responded in a dynamic and dangerous situation.”

Even a family whose back yard was engulfed by the fire was not notified until it was too late.

Barbara Goodnough and her family on Charlottes Vista lost their backyard decking, cubbyhouse and play equipment in the blaze.

“No emergency alert, no door-knock, no nothing,” Mrs Goodnough said.

“We didn’t even see it – all of a sudden the whole house went bright orange and I heard walkie-talkies out the front,” she said.

“I had all the kids and pets in the car ready to go when a policeman came in screaming saying, ‘you’ve got 60 seconds to leave’.”

DFES said it was not always possible to activate the warning system in time, especially if a fire starts close to properties and moved quickly.

According to DFES, there have been no cuts to the telephone warning system and activation of the alert system was at the discretion of the incident controller.

West Swan MLA Rita Saffioti said the response was unsatisfactory and the whole point of the system was to use it when fires were moving quickly.

“(It) was created to give timely warning to homes under threat and that was definitely the case for Ellenbrook on Sunday,” she said.

“Given Ellenbrook has such a significant population and how close the fire came to people’s homes, I’m shocked the telephone warning system wasn’t activated.”

The fire burned 51ha of bush in western Ellenbrook and WA Police arson squad is investigating the cause of the blaze.