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

Aaron Bunch
Homes lost in WA bushfire revised up to 81

The number of homes lost to a bushfire in Perth’s northeast has been revised up to 81 as firefighters battle the blaze in gusty winds for the fourth day.

February 4, 2020

The number of homes destroyed by an out-of-control bushfire in Perth’s northeast has been revised up to more than 80 as firefighters battle flames fanned by strong winds for the fourth day.

The massive blaze with a 126-kilometre perimeter has raced northwest across the city’s coastal plain after destroying dozens of homes near the hills town of Wooroloo on Monday night.

Estimates of properties lost started at 56 on Tuesday morning, but by Wednesday that number had grown to 71, with concerns more had been destroyed.

Premier Mark McGowan confirmed those fears on Thursday, saying assessment teams had now identified 81 homes lost to the fire.

“The devastation caused by these bushfires is almost too much to comprehend,” he told reporters.

“We’re all thinking of those who’ve lost their homes. In some cases, their livelihoods. It’s devastating.”

The news comes after firefighters late on Wednesday stopped the blaze from reaching homes in Avon Ridge Estate, Shady Hills View, Gidgegannup’s north and along the Great Northern Highway.

Hundreds of firefighters battled tough conditions in steep terrain as 11 air tanker sorties dropped 200,000 litres of fire retardant, which is credited with halting the flames.

Former fireman Stewart Brisbane, 55, stayed and defended his rural property north of the blaze.

“The embers were raining in on us last night with the wind changing and picking up,” he told AAP.

“I had all my pumps set up and the neighbours all banded together and helped each other.

“But after they dropped the retardant the fire didn’t move.”

Strong easterly winds forecast for late Thursday are expected to test the western and northern boundaries of the blaze.

Properties near Walyunga National Park and the southern end of Great Northern Highway are likely to come under threat

Hay producer Chris White said the fire was due east of his property and he could see water bombers working above it.

“If it goes full easterly, it’ll come straight through this place,” he told AAP.

“It just has to come down the hill to get to us, and if it wants to, it will. It’s all wind-related.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation was very dangerous.

“There still remains the potential for gusts of up to 60-to-70 km/h, which may cause embers to carry ahead of the main fire,” he said.

An alert remains in place for people in Shady Hills View, Bullsbrook’s east and north of Gidgegannup.

It’s too late to leave and leaving now would be deadly,” Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said.

A second large air tanker has arrived in Perth from NSW to help fight the fire with other fixed-wing aircraft and water-bombing helicopters.

About 260 firefighters were on the ground battling the blaze on Thursday, but the smaller fixed-wing planes were unable to drop water due wind sheer.

The fire has travelled 21km since it started near Werribee Road in Wooroloo on Monday. It’s currently eight kilometres wide and more than 10,000 hectares in size.

“It’s a very large, complex incident in very difficult terrain and we have to get machinery in there which can be a long process, so this is going to go for at least a week or more,” DFES Superintendent Peter Sutton said.

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.

About 800 homes and businesses in the region remain without electricity after the blaze damaged hundreds of power poles and 100 transformers.

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