Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Perth bushfire flares as 71 homes lost

Gusty winds are pushing an out-of-control Perth bushfire that’s destroyed more than 70 homes towards suburbs in the city’s northeast.

February 3, 2020

An out-of-control bushfire in Perth’s northeast has destroyed more than 70 homes, with residents to the north of the blaze told to evacuate as southerly winds whip up.

The massive blaze with a 110km perimeter is racing north along the city’s coastal plain after destroying 71 homes near the hills town of Wooroloo on Monday night.

Residents in the suburbs of Shady Hills View and Bullsbrook – where the RAAF Base Pearce is located – have been told to evacuate with wind gusts up to 70km/h possible late on Wednesday.

Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Operations Craig Waters said the shifting wind was making life tough for firefighters.

“We’ve had three outbreaks … one on the northwest corner of the fire which is going to threaten Shady Hills in a couple of hours,” he told reporters.

“Tonight, given the terrain, will be extremely dangerous.”

The blaze has also broken containment lines on the southwest corner of the fire near Avon Ridge Estate and to the north along Berry Road in Gidgegannup.

“One of the biggest issues is the terrain around the fire areas, it’s very steep … a lot of valleys, a lot of hills, so we’re experiencing really flukey winds,” Mr Waters said.

“The fire has (also) been spotting well ahead of the main head fire.

“We’re asking all community members (in warning areas) to enact their fire plan.”

A DFES warning remains in place for people in a 15km arc of land stretching west from Gidgegannup to Walyunga National Park, south of Bullsbrook.

“It’s too late to leave and leaving now would be deadly. You need to shelter in your home in a room away from the fire front and make sure you can easily escape,” the warning stated.

Lower Chittering resident Stewart Brisbane, 55, decided to stay and defend his rural property, about five kilometres north of Bullsbrook.

“It’s starting to get real, the wind is picking up and the smoke is thicker. We’ve been getting embers for a while now, so I’ve just primed the fire pumps to help protect us,” he told AAP.

“All the warnings are starting to fly in on the phone telling people to evacuate.

“I guess it’s just a case of standing back and waiting for it.”

Premier Mark McGowan said WA was enduring an unprecedented crisis.

“We’re facing disasters on two fronts – the devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, referring to a five-day lockdown for metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and the South West.

“The fire has devastated our community. We know that 71 homes have been lost and that number is expected to rise.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament Australia was standing with the people of WA.

“No lives have been lost and no one is believed to be unaccounted for, and for that, we are deeply grateful,” he said.

People whose homes have been severely damaged, or destroyed or who’ve been seriously injured in the fires will be able to access $1000 Commonwealth disaster recovery payments from Thursday.

Disaster Recovery Allowance payments will also be available for people who’ve lost income because of the blaze.

Weather conditions are not expected to improve until the weekend when rain has been forecast. In the meantime, the area is set to endure warm temperatures with strong winds and low humidity.

The fire has burned through about 10,000 hectares since it started near Werribee Road in Wooroloo on Monday, with 300 firefighters battling the fire.

About 1300 homes and businesses in the region remain without electricity after the blaze damaged power lines and poles on Monday night.

Evacuation centres have been set up at the Brown Park Recreation Complex in Swan View, Swan Active in Midland and Swan Active in Beechboro.

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