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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13245

Mr WILSON (O'Connor) (13:44): I rise to update the House on the devastating fires ravaging Esperance. Most would be aware that four people perished last week, and my heartfelt condolences go to the families of: Esperance farmer Kym—known to all his mates as 'Freddy'—Curnow; farm workers Julia Kohrs-Lichte from Germany and Norwegian Anna Winther; and 31-year-old Briton Tom Butcher.

The fire was started by lightning north of Cascade at 7 am last Sunday, and the fire is still burning within a 250 kilometre perimeter. Approximately 132,000 hectares of crops and pasture have been destroyed in the Grass Patch-Salmon Gums blaze and a further 15,000 hectares at Merivale. A number of houses and farm buildings have been destroyed. One of the best crops in years has been razed and there are thousands of livestock casualties. Homes have been left without power, and people have been left without communications. About 200 firefighters from Perth, Manjimup, Northam and Albany are providing support to the exhausted local volunteer brigades who fought a valiant fight in life-threatening circumstances. Shire of Esperance President Victoria Brown is providing outstanding leadership, and I commend everybody who is helping out. The whole community is banding together, with volunteers like Julie Kent gathering friends to produce over 700 salad rolls, many dozens of curried egg sandwiches and many batches of biscuits for the fireys.

Thanks to the businesses in the town who are contributing, including South Coast Foodservice, Woolworths, Pink Lake IGA, Castletown IGA, Brumby's, the Reject Shop, the French bread shop and Peters. I would also like to acknowledge the extraordinary work of the volunteer firefighters, DFES, DPaW, shire workers and other volunteers. The WA Farmers, WAF, are coordinating a farm assistance program, and cash donations can be made via the Lord Mayor's Distress Relief Fund.

I am sure that I can pass on the best regards of this House to the Esperance community as they rebuild after this disaster.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!