Wildfire in west Australia burns more homes in dry wind

Clay Curtis
February 4, 2021

Hundreds of Australians have spent a night in evacuation centres as a fire on the outskirts of the locked-down city of Perth continues to grow.

The nearly 17,000-acre blaze, which has a 60-kilometre perimeter, began yesterday and raged through the night near the town of Wooroloo, with the shires of Mundaring, Chittering, Northam, and the city of Swan impacted.

More than 250 firefighters were operating in rough and hilly terrain, making their task "really difficult", said department of fire and emergency services commissioner Darren Klemm.

"Tragically, 59 properties have been lost in this fire and that number may increase as we continue to assess the extent of the damage", Klemm added.

"It's important everyone should have a plan and when emergency service personnel ask you to act on that plan, that trumps any lockdown orders", David Littleproud, the emergency management minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. There had been no other injuries.

More than 200 firefighters are battling the bushfire which has so far burned nearly 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres).

State Premier Mark McGowan said 80 per cent of all properties near Gidgegannup on Perth's northeast rural fringe have been lost.

Scientists said the layout of the Perth Hills left it particularly vulnerable to blazes made increasingly more unsafe by climate change, with large fires engulfing homes in the area four times since 2009.

"This is additional assistance over and above the Commonwealth Government's emergency relief arrangements", Mr McGowan said.

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Lives are also under threat with residents in a 25km stretch between Wooroloo and Walyunga National Park told it's now too late to leave.

"You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you", the latest warning said.

"I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke", she said.

Residents in surrounding areas of the emergency warning zone, and who are not prepared to fight the fire, have been urged to leave immediately. It is said that the lockdown affects the lives of two million people in Western Australia.

The cause of the blaze is unknown.

"It has made it very hard, near on impossible.to suppress this fire", DFES Superintendent Peter Sutton told the ABC.

After a particularly impactful and costly wildfire season in 2020, which drove some reasonably significant losses to some reinsurance capital providers, the summer 2020/21 season was expected to be different due to La Nina conditions emerging.

"The fire has devastated our community".

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