Yarloop locals were aware of fire: Francis

People at risk from bushfires must be responsible for their own “situational awareness”, the West Australian emergency services minister says, as he continues to hose down criticism of the alert system.

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Joe Francis said residents of the South West town of Yarloop were aware of the blaze that all but completely destroyed their community.

Mr Francis said most people left hours ahead of the fire front, despite the emergency warning for the town being issued about 30 minutes before it burnt.

“There is no substitute for personal situational awareness,” Mr Francis told ABC local radio on Wednesday.

Yarloop resident Helen Alexander told AAP the Department of Fire and Emergency Services alert system for her town was practically non-existent.

“What alert system? We got an alert on Wednesday that was for Waroona, then we never got another thing and Yarloop was not mentioned in anything, nothing, and everyone you speak to will tell you that,” she said.

“How can you be aware when you don’t know?”

Mr Francis said an independent inquiry would be launched into the department’s handling of the bushfire that killed two men and destroyed more than 71,300 hectares.

Ms Alexander, who drove through Yarloop on Wednesday morning, said the small town was “absolutely devastated”, but was confident it would be rebuilt.

“It’s absolutely incredible. It’s completely burnt out, it looks like World War III has come through,” she said.

“We just have to be patient, it really is a terrible, terrible thing that has happened, but hopefully we will build it back up again. It’s a beautiful little town.”

Authorities downgraded the fire warning on Tuesday night, containing most of the blaze, but are yet to bring it under control.