Below is an email the Association sent to the Editor and Online Editor of The West Australian newspaper in response to this article that appeared in today’s paper.
From: Darren Brown
Sent: Friday, 26 June 2015 10:26 AM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Misleading headline – please alter online version and consider apology
I refer to the article that appeared on page 13 of today’s West Australian newspaper titled “Bush fireys fail to meet burn target”.
As usual, your journalist Dan Mercer has provided a valuable and insightful article presenting a number of important facts about Western Australia’s critical prescribed burning program and we thank you for your interest in the topic. Unfortunately however, the title and first line include very poorly chosen words that have the potential to cause deep offence to the proud women and men of the state’s Volunteer Bush Fire Service and we seek your immediate action in the form of altering the online version (https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/28556580/bush-fireys-fail-to-meet-burn-target/) and issuing an open apology for any confusion or reputational damage the headline in particular has caused.
For the benefit of your staff and readers, Western Australia has a number of agencies involved in the prevention of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from fires. While the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) is charged with overall responsibility for the coordination of all emergency services in the State, other agencies such as the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) take leadership roles in specific areas such as bush fire mitigation and prescribed burning. Contrary to the first line in today’s article, DPaW is not “WA’s bushfire fighting agency” – a misunderstanding that would lead any reasonable person to believe the headline is actually referring to a failure of the State’s Volunteer Bush Fire Service (VBFS).
As a peak body representing the members of the VBFS, the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) currently does not have the financial capacity to undertake public education campaigns however we believe it is very important for the media – and by extension, the public – to be fully aware of all the facts regarding who it is that provides the services to prepare and protect the Western Australian community from the devastation of fires. At present, DPaW has 130 full time equivalents working in bushfire suppression at a cost of around $32 million dollars in 2014-15. DFES has 1,100 paid fire fighters and around 300 admin staff, costing the State $190 million in last year. The Western Australian Volunteer Bush Fire Service that under current legislation is not connected to either department has more than 22,000 personnel and zero employment cost.
To further improve public knowledge regarding the facts about Western Australia’s emergency services, the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) collected by DFES from Local Governments last year totalled around $290 million, of which a total of $20 million was allocated to the State’s largest emergency agency, the Volunteer Bush Fire Service.
With that new knowledge, please immediately correct the headline in your online version of the article and if you see fit, issue an apology to the incredible volunteers who provide more than 70% of Western Australia’s fire fighting personnel at no cost to government for any offence or reputational injury your headline may have caused.
Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB)
Mobile: 0498 828 232