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The legal rights of residents and property owners affected by the January 2016 Waroona Fire will be explored by Slater and Gordon following the release of the Special Inquiry Report into the disaster.

The devastating blaze ripped through 69,000 hectares across the Shires of Waroona and Harvey and the town of Yarloop, destroying 181 residential properties and businesses along with a number of sheds and farm buildings.

The Special Inquiry Report estimates economic losses of $155 million.

Tragically, two people lost their lives in the fire, and a Western Power employee was killed while working to bring back power to the area.

Premier Colin Barnett directed former Victorian Country Fire Authority chief, Euan Ferguson, to undertake the Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry to examine the management of the bushfire response.

The report, titled Reframing Rural Fire Management, points to key failures by authorities including:

  • A failure to provide timely or accurate warnings, in particular, to the town of Yarloop.
  • A failure to make a decision at an earlier point in time to escalate the fire status and bring in the Bush Firefighter Brigade to replace Parks and Wildlife staff.
  • A lack of appreciation of the evening downslope winds (also known as the 'katabatic winds') that wreaked havoc on Yarloop throughout the night of 7 January 2016.
  • An underestimation of the threat to the towns of Yarloop and Cookernup and delay in dispatching the additional resources, which had been requested, until it was too late to save the town of Yarloop.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Rachel Cosentino said the Report’s findings raised important legal questions which were worth investigating.

“The Waroona Fire had a significant impact on the lives of local residents and knowing where they stand in a legal sense will be an important part of rebuilding their lives,” Ms Cosentino said.

“In many cases, even those who had insurance will find their policies do not offer full coverage for their personal and property losses.

“The firm will closely examine the findings and provide advice to victims about their rights to compensation for their losses.

“Local residents and property owners are entitled to have their interests protected, and with our work on the Margaret River and Parkerville bushfire legal cases, Slater and Gordon is well-placed to assist people.”