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An out-of-control bushfire burning in the Perth Hills that has already destroyed up to 30 homes is “extremely volatile” and an active “threat to lives and homes”, the Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan, has warned.
A firefighting Boeing 737 aerial tanker from New South Wales is being flown west to assist with efforts to battle the blaze which had ripped through 7,300 hectares by Tuesday afternoon and triggered a smoke warning after ash fell in the Perth CBD – about 30km from the fire front.
McGowan briefed the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on the fire which has a 75km perimeter and raged overnight through the town of Wooroloo. The shires of Mundaring, Chittering, Northam, and the City of Swan have been impacted. People in a 25km stretch west from Wooroloo to the Walyunga National Park northeast of Perth have been told it is too late to leave.
Residents subject to the state’s snap five-day Covid lockdown were also told to disregard the stay-at-home direction and to leave their properties if they believed they were under threat. This advice included close contacts of the quarantine hotel security guard who has tested positive and anyone else who had been instructed to self-isolate.
McGowan, while providing a coronavirus update on Tuesday afternoon, said Western Australia was battling “two different kinds of emergencies”.
“It is going to be an extremely challenging day for everyone involved,” the premier said. “Please do everything you can to keep you and your family safe and look after each other.”
McGowan said WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services had advised “they have lost 80% of all properties in the rural area of Tilden Park in Gidgegannup”. Council documents show there are at least 33 properties in Tilden Park.
Western Power had advised about 2,750 homes and businesses were without power due to the bushfires burning in Wooroloo, Bailup and Gidgegannup.
“We are currently securing another large aerial tanker from NSW to assist. It should be here in Western Australia later today. I’ve also briefed the prime minister on this situation and also on the Covid situation this morning,” McGowan said.
“A number of homes have been lost and the morning winds are predicted to turn from easterly to north-westerly. Weather conditions are extremely volatile.”
The WA police commissioner, Chris Dawson, warned residents of Perth and other areas under lockdown to “do whatever you need to do to protect your life and those of your immediate family”.
“Let me be clear. I urge people to stay informed and prepare themselves,” Dawson said. “If you are under threat, leave your property and go to suitable premises. Do not stay in the property if you think you have to obey the Covid-19 rules.”
The DFES deputy commissioner of operations, Craig Waters, warned strong winds were the main obstacle hampering firefighting efforts. He and noted a lack of water in the soil was impacting how the fire was behaving.
He said the fire had doubled in size since Monday night and warned that residents in parts of The Vines, Bailup, Ellenbrook, Gidgegannup, Millendon, Walyunga National Park, Upper Swan, Aveley, the Avon Valley National Park, Red Hill, Belhus, Baskerville, Herne Hill, Bullsbrok, Wooroloo and Brigadoon were “under immediate danger”.
“Strong winds are hampering us getting in and containing the fire and bringing it under control,” Waters said.
He reiterated that residents should not feel compelled to follow Covid lockdown orders. “They need to do whatever they need to do to look after their own safety and the safety of their loved ones,” Waters said, adding that anyone who had been under specific self-isolation orders who goes to an evacuation centre should let authorities know and wear a mask.
Temperatures were expected to reach 37C on Tuesday with hot easterly winds with gusts up to 65km/h forecast for the Hills area until the afternoon.
The Swan mayor, Kevin Bailey, said more than 30 homes were believed to have been destroyed. “The fire has now come down out of the hills towards the flat part of the plains, so there’s an awful lot of smoke through the northern suburbs,” he told the ABC. “It’s been a very big fire.”
People in Perth’s CBD and coastal suburbs were reporting ash landing at their homes up to 35km from the blaze.
Operations at RAAF Base Pearce – which is in the path of the fire – were suspended and preparations were being made to evacuate. An evacuation centre was established at Brown Park in Swan View.
People in a 25km stretch west from Wooroloo to the Walyunga national park north-east of Perth were told it was 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 stated.
– Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Fierce bushfire in Perth Hills is a ‘threat to lives and homes’, warns WA premier | Bushfires