Portuguese Fire Managers explore bushfire mitigation in Western Australia

Portuguese Fire Managers conducting planned burns with DFES and DBCA Staff
Portuguese Fire Managers conducting planned burns with DFES and DBCA Staff

In October 2023, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) hosted a delegation of six Fire Managers from Portugal in partnership with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

The visit follows the Australian Forest Fire Management Rotary’s Vocational Training Team (VTT) visit to Portugal in November 2022.  Made possible through a Rotary Foundation Global Grant, the visit facilitated an international exchange of fire management knowledge following a major inquiry into Portugal’s devastating 2017 bushfires which claimed 112 lives.

This tragedy resulted in a significant change in Portugal’s fire management policy, from an emphasis on fire suppression to a primary focus on improved land management practices to reduce fire risk. It is in this area of forest fire management that the newly created Portuguese agency, the Agency for Integrated Management of Rural Fire (AGIF), sought Australia’s assistance.

The delegation was officially welcomed to Western Australia on 22 October 2023 by DFES Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters AFSM, Honorary Consul of Portugal in Perth John Da Silva, senior DFES, DBCA and Rotary representatives, and Gary Morgan AFSM, Principal Consultant from the Global Wildland Fire Management Service and Rotary Victoria.

During their stay, the Portuguese delegation toured regional lands managed by DFES and DBCA in the South West of Western Australia including Dwellingup, Busselton, Collie and Walpole. At each town the Fire Managers engaged with local fire management teams, actively participating in, and observing planned burning and bushfire mitigation activities.

This experience proved valuable to the delegation by allowing them to develop a deeper insight into WA’s approach to burning operations, which are used as a primary land management tool by DFES and DBCA employees, volunteers and sub-contractors to achieve a range of outcomes relating to bushfire mitigation and biodiversity.

On Tuesday 24 October, the delegation then visited the Bushfire Centre of Excellence (BCoE) Karla Katitjin in Nambeelup. Their visit included a guided tour of the facility led by BCoE Chief Superintendent John Tillman, showcasing the building’s collaborative and engaging spaces, cultural elements and firewise gardens. The group also participated in the 'Assist with Planned Burning and Bushfire Fundamentals' courses delivered by the BCoE’s training team.

Chief Superintendent John Tillman said it was pleasing to see the Centre’s work reaching international partners within the sector.

“It is important to encourage the sharing of knowledge and experience between fire management personnel and we are very proud to showcase our long history of fire management in Western Australia.”

"This visit has allowed the Portuguese fire managers to gain exposure and understanding of planned burning here in WA, which recognises us as a world leader in the area” said Chief Superintendent Tillman.

BCoE Tour by Chief Superintendent John Tillman

Other components of the visit included a guided tour of the DFES State Operation Centre, Communications Centre and Jandakot Air Operations and logistics bases for both DFES and DBCA. The Portuguese delegation were provided with opportunities to visit Incident Management Teams managing a complex of fires in the South West and met the Honourable Roger Cook MLA, the Premier of Western Australia and the Honourable Reece Whitby MLA, the Minister for Environment.

The visit provided a unique opportunity for the Portuguese fire managers to learn and develop a greater understanding of the strategies used in Australia for bushfire mitigation and suppression. It is hoped that the experience will create long-term partnerships and collaboration between DFES and our international partners in Portugal, and that the knowledge shared can be used to benefit both countries.

The DFES’ BCoE is proud to have had the opportunity to host the delegation and looks forward to developing a strong and positive relationship with our Portuguese partners in the coming years.

For more information visit dfes.wa.gov.au/bushfirecoe or email bushfirecoe@dfes.wa.gov.au