A wildfire burning north-east of Perth on Australia’s west coast has destroyed 56 homes and is threatening more, with many locals across the region told it is too late to leave.
The almost 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.
So far more than 7500 hectares have been devastated, and a staggering 80 per cent of properties have been razed in Tilden Park in Gidgegannup.
The news was confirmed by WA Premier Mark McGowan today, who said the “extremely dangerous” blaze was threatening homes and lives.
It is believed more than 20 homes have been destroyed in Tilden Park alone, which is located east of Perth.
“DFES [Department of Fire and Emergency Services] advise they have lost 80 per cent of all properties in the rural area of Tilden Park in Gidgegannup [and] will be conducting inquiries in an attempt to establish whether there has been any loss of life,” McGowan said.
Speaking this evening, DFES Commissioner Darren Klemm confirmed 56 homes had been lost so far.
“Our rapid damage assessment teams have been through a large part of the incident with still some more to go, but at this time I can tell you that 56 homes have been lost. It is terrible news for the owners of those homes, and our thoughts are with them all,” he said.
Klemm said to his knowledge, there had been no deaths reported and no injuries to members of the public, although six firefighters had received minor injuries.
People in a 25km stretch west from Wooroloo to the Walyunga National Park northeast of Perth were told it was too dangerous to leave their homes.
“You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you,” the latest warning said.
Roads out of semi-rural suburb The Vines on Perth’s northern outskirts were bumper-to-bumper with traffic, leaving some choosing to stay.
Melissa Stahl, 49, received a text telling her to evacuate.
“I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke,” she said. “We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there.”
A warning to other threatened areas told people to leave if they are not prepared to fight the blaze. The fire is unpredictable and weather conditions are rapidly changing, the warning said, urging people to stay vigilant.
The cause of the blaze is unknown.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent Peter Sutton said about 250 firefighters had been battling the erratic blaze.
“It has made it very hard, near on impossible … to suppress this fire,” Sutton said.
Wildfires are common during Australia’s summer. However, the season has been mild on Australia’s south-east coast, which was devastated by massive fires last summer.
– With news.com.au
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