Kelmscott/Roleystone bushfires 10 years on

Kelmscott/Roleystone bushfires 10 years on

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Locals cleaning up after the fires 10 years ago, with the fire ravaged hills in the background.

While residents in north-west of the state continue to battle bushfires, residents in the south-east had a stark reminder of the blaze which destroyed many properties a decade ago.

This Saturday, February 6 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Kelmscott-Roleystone bushfires.

A total of 72 homes were destroyed in the blaze in 2011 and a further 37 properties were damaged.

At the time the chief executive officer of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA, now DFES) labelled the fire as one of the worst the state had ever seen due to significant loss of homes.

Frank Duffy lost his home in the fires and said rebuilding took four years due to ongoing investigations, insurance reports and building policy changes.

“It was going to cost us $200,000 just for the retaining wall so we could build a similar design to our old house,” he said.

The fires devastated families but brought the community closer together, Mr Duffy said they meet every year on the anniversary of the fires.

“Some people left and sold their properties and I admit I considered it, but stayed because of the local community.”

Mr Duffy said his family lost everything, except for his great uncle’s pocket watch.

“I thought I lost everything but a few days later I found the pocket watch in my pocket, I don’t remember opening the drawer and getting it.”

According to Mr Duffy there was nothing the families could do to prepare themselves for such a fire.

“We saw the fire coming when it started. As my wife went to call emergency services, we heard the sirens,” he said.

“It jumped across Brookton Highway and there must’ve been gas bottles at the bottom of the hill because they exploded like pistols.”

The use of Helitacs stopped the fire reaching Roleystone Primary School.

A report into the fires labelled ‘Final Report on the February 2011 Fires in Roleystone, Kelmscott and Red Hill Research Project’ stated that 28 per cent of residents in Kelmscott and Roleystone left their homes only just in time.

At the time residents reported that they thought FESA would give them a more formal warning to evacuate.

According to reports at the time of the fires, two firefighters lost their homes.

“The house in between my parents and my sister on Buckingham road burnt down, and their son was a volunteer firefighter who was fighting a blaze somewhere else,” said candidate for Darling Range, Hugh Jones.

Locals said there was nothing more they could do to prepare for the fires.

The days following the blaze, locals got together and cleaned up at various houses that had been affected by the fire.

Whilst it is still up to the resident to evacuate, over the years DFES has improved their alert protocol, which allows residents to get alerts directly to their phones if they are within range of fires even if the person isn’t subscribed.