Open Letter Defends Fire Fighters Who Fought To Save Western Australian Town Of Yarloop

15/01/2016 10:28 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Jason Bloxsidge

An open letter defending fire fighters who tried to save the West Australian town of Yarloop has been shared thousands of times as tensions run high.

The letter was written by Yarloop resident Kirsten Bendtsen, after 160 local homes were destroyed and two people died in the region.

Bendtsen, the mother of a fire fighter, berated 'armchair critics' who said fire fighters didn’t do enough, that residents didn’t have ample warning to evacuate and claims the town didn’t have enough water to fight the fire.

Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson said he had heard Yarloop residents were angry there was a serious lack of water in the town to battle the blaze and he was investigating.

"We will look at that," Gregson said. "The resupply of trucks from both the fuel and water perspective is usually done independently of town water supply but I did hear comments."

An open letter to all the armchair critics in Yarloop

From Kirsten Bendtsen - Yarloop resident

You should be very ashamed of yourselves, running around criticising the people who put their own life on the line to try and keep you and everyone else as safe as they possibly could during the devastating fire in our town. If you want to throw blame around make sure you aim it in the right direction, and I will suggest that you start with aiming it at yourself.

How can you say Yarloop residents were only given 25 minutes warning before the fire hit? We received 2 messages shortly before 10 PM on Wednesday the 6th, one on my mobile phone and one on our landline phone, so that was close to 24 hours before the fire hit. Don’t tell me we were the only people in Yarloop to get that message because I am not going to believe you.

I myself happened to be up in Perth and had planned on coming back home on the Thursday, but I knew by Thursday morning that wouldn't be possible. I had no trouble finding the information that told me which roads were closed, the information was there on DFES’s website, but you have to look for it yourself. It’s called taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions, not waiting for other people to come and take you by the hand and tell you what to do.

My husband was one of the people who stayed in town, and he reckons you would have had to be blind and deaf not to know that the fire was getting closer and heading straight for town. There were DFES boys in town doing their best to keep you all safe down on the oval. How did you expect them to put the fire out when there was no water? Don’t blame the firefighters for that! Even if they had had the benefit of water, no amount of water would have stopped that fire.

We were one of the lucky few, even if we lost our shed with everything in it we still have a house. Why we were spared and a lot of other people were not I am not sure, but it could actually have something to with the fact that we always keep our yard tidy and free of debris and on the Thursday my husband was out there wetting everything down around the house. That is called preparing yourself and that is what DFES ask you to do if you decide to stay.

So once again, I reckon you armchair critics should be very ashamed of yourself. The volunteers and the DFES personnel put their own lives on the line to try and keep whingers like you safe. The DFES boys worked very, very hard, some of them were on their feet for 24 hours or more. One of my sons was one of them, and his brothers, my husband and I are very proud of him.

So come on all people of Yarloop, I know we all will be going through some hard difficult months, but lets all pull together and build this little town up again. Stop this negativity with blaming people just because you are upset about what did happen to our town. When this is all over I am sure there is some blame that will be allocated, but it is definitely not towards DFES or the volunteers.

Mr Wayne Gregson, my whole family salute your boys and the volunteers. They all did the best they could; you can’t ask more than that of anybody.

Kirsten Bendtsen

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