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Arson squad investigation begins after firefighter dies battling blaze

Arson squad detectives are investigating the death of a firefighter at a big blaze in WA's south.

Arson squad detectives are investigating the death of a firefighter at a big blaze in WA's south. Photo: WA DFES/AAP

A volunteer firefighter’s death in Western Australia and the massive blaze he died battling are being investigated by arson squad detectives.

The man was part of a crew responding to the fire near Esperance on Tuesday using a privately owned firefighting vehicle, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said.

The fire was one of several blazes in the area and burned more than 7000 hectares before all were downgraded late in the day.

WA Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the man’s death, including his involvement in the response to the fire.

Arson squad detectives travelled from Perth on Wednesday to join the investigation.

“At this time, it is believed the man was responding to a fire on a neighbouring farming property using a private fire appliance,” a police spokesman said.

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said firefighters faced difficult weather conditions, with strong winds that created “issues” for them.

“I am happy to say that they’ve made some really good progress today,” he told reporters late on Wednesday.

He said the entire department’s thoughts were with the man’s family, friends and fellow firefighters in the Esperance area.

“I can only imagine the difficult time that his colleagues and his family are going through currently, as they deal with those tragic events that unfolded yesterday,” he said.

“It’s an incredibly dangerous job that (firefighters) undertake across different parts of the state.

Premier Roger Cook said he was “devastated” by the man’s tragic death.

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day in the service of keeping our community and our state safe,” he said in a social media post late on Tuesday.

“This is an absolute tragedy, and I know the thoughts of all Western Australians are with the young man’s family and friends.”

Deputy Premier Rita Saffioti said the firefighter’s death was a tragedy.

“To lose someone so young, protecting the community is a tragedy,” she said.

“On behalf of the state government, we pass on our condolences and our sympathy to all of those who are close to the young man that lost his life.”

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

There are currently three bushfires burning in the Esperance area. All are at alert level.

-AAP

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