By Claire Ottaviano
SHIRE of Mundaring bushfire brigades will be better equipped in the field after council approved the purchase of a new incident management vehicle, but depending on current supply, the truck may not be ready for the 2021/22 bushfire season.
Cr Toni Burbidge put forward the motion at Tuesday night’s council meeting after a request from the Shire’s five volunteer deputy chief bushfire control officers for a purpose-built vehicle to respond to critical incidents.
Volunteer deputy chief bushfire brigade officer Ian Zlatnik said while officers had access to the Shire’s light tankers, they weren’t appropriate for bushfire management and communications.
“Put simply a light tanker is a firefighting appliance, designed for putting water on a fire, not as a command and control vehicle,” he said.
“An incident control vehicle needs a layout for planning battle boards, access to multiple radios and importantly somewhere to be out of the elements.”
Mr Zlatnik has more than 20 years service with the Stoneville and Darlington Bush Fire Brigades and 15 years on the Shire’s Bush Fire Advisory Committee.
“Over that time my fellow deputies and I have attended some of the most significant bushfire emergencies in Western Australia including the two large Parkerville/Stoneville bushfires and the most recent Wooroloo bushfire earlier this year,” he said.
“Rapid mobilisation and implementation of forward control is critical to successfully containing and controlling fires and preventing escalation.
“To achieve this, as volunteers we rely on the use of our own private vehicles to turn out to, and in many instances, run incidents from.
“Our own private vehicles are not designed or equipped for this purpose and this results in risks to us as well as the shire.”
Council debated at length on the pros and cons of the purchase before ultimately voting 10/1 with Cr James Martin against.
While Cr Martin supported the need for such a vehicle, he said it conflicted with the intentions of the Shire’s 2021/22 annual budget, adopted one week prior, which took a cautious approach to additional expenditure.
Shire staff are also in the middle of preparing a business case on the purchase of a similar vehicle which would provide a more in-depth review of vehicle options, conditions of its use, timing of acquisition and costs.
Council approved to use $95,000 from the Shire’s Plant Replacement Reserve on the vehicle, which includes the four-wheel-drive cab chassis, a pod unit and fit-out of all equipment.