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WA farewells the steward of its fire and emergency reforms

The Western Australian government has farewelled one fire and emergency services commissioner, who bedded down major administrative reforms over the past five years, and welcomed another in a transfer of command ceremony last week.

Darren Klemm was promoted from assistant commissioner to the top job in the Department of Fire and Emergency Services after the retirement of Wayne Gregson, who was credited with transforming the former fire and emergency authority into a “professional and future-focused organisation” by leading both cultural and technological change.

This was “a tremendous challenge and one that he rose to with great acclaim” according to the Emergency Services Minister, Fran Logan.

“Retiring Commissioner Wayne Gregson deserves high praise for not only establishing the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, but for what the department has become today,” Logan said at the ceremony.

Darren Klemm

“It is a high-tech organisation that has improved mitigation strategies, training, equipment, aerial firefighting capabilities and brought volunteer organisations together.

“Mr Gregson was tasked with a very difficult challenge in the aftermath of the 2011 Perth Hills Inquiry to not only create a department, but change internal cultures and move the department into the forward-thinking organisation it has become.

“This state will be well serviced into the future in its emergency response capabilities thanks to Mr Gregson, and his team’s, tremendous efforts.”

Wayne Gregson

Under Gregson’s leadership, Logan said the department moved into a new “state-of-the-art” headquarters, improved bushfire risk mitigation plans, improved training for volunteers, made good use of technology to save more lives and helped “eligible firefighters access compensation for certain cancers”.

His successor, Klemm, had been assistant commissioner for metropolitan operations since 2012 and took over as commissioner on Monday this week.

“It is one of the State’s more challenging departments and we have a lot of work to do to strengthen our State’s response to emergency situations,” said Logan, announcing the appointment for an initial period of 18 months.

The minister said Klemm was also “one of the key figures in responding to the 2011 Perth Hills Bushfire Inquiry” along with Gregson, and had gained “significant experience in strategic reform” through “major roles in the structural and cultural reform of training and professional development of personnel and volunteers”.

Klemm started firefighting in South Australia before moving to Perth in 1993. He has also served in the Goldfields/Midlands region and at the fire service training centre, as well as playing key operational roles such as WA state controller or incident controller for three major bushfires and one cyclone.

All images: WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services.


Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.