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WA prisoners recruited for bushfire season

More than 20 inmates housed in a prison south of Perth will support WA’s fixed-wing water bomber fleet ahead of the next bushfire season.

Prisoners from Karnet Prison Farm have volunteered to help reload water, fire retardants and foam for the Conservation Department’s water bombing aircraft as part of a 10-year partnership.

The concept has already proven its worth after prisoners set a record by reloading 110 planes in one day during the devastating Waroona-Yarloop fires in 2016.

The team “take great pride” in their work helping to protect WA residents, Karnet Prison Farm Superintendent Ray Edge said.

“Once trained they are on standby and available to assist DBCA (WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions) seven days a week as required.”

The department’s bushfire defence includes aircraft used to detect and combat blazes in rugged and often inaccessible areas, with planes capable of carrying up to 3150 litres of water per drop.

It is “lucky” to have the prison partnership running for more than a decade, senior fire aviation services officer Brad Bourke said.

“We are thankful for those taking up the opportunity to learn these important skills as the bushfire season approaches.”

Each year, the department responds to about 600 fires on or near land it manages.

In 2020, the Department of Justice formalised a Memorandum of Understanding with DBCA and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for the prisoner volunteer program.

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