Homes lost in city bushfires with fears toll could rise
Aaron Bunch |
Ten homes have been lost in bushfires in metropolitan Perth with fears the toll could climb higher as authorities warn it’s likely to be days before the situation is under control.
More than 150 firefighters are battling a massive blaze in the city’s northern suburbs that forced hundreds of local families to leave as embers rained down on their homes overnight.
Tapping resident Chris Malkowski said it was a night of chaos as embers fell on homes and a nearby bush reserve burst into flames.
“It was so windy the embers were going sideways over fences and into backyards,” he told AAP on Thursday.
He said a neighbour’s Bali-inspired backyard cabana caught alight as about 20 fire crews and local residents using garden hoses fought the fierce blaze.
“The whole road was covered in smoke and we had all the neighbour’s hoses out and every time an ember landed we got it and put it out,” he said.
Sarah Kilian also stayed to defend her home from the blaze after it ripped through nearby market gardens and leapt a four-lane road into the reserve.
“There was two massive fires coming down the road and smoke everywhere,” she said.
Ms Kilian said most of her neighbours left during the night as embers descended on their homes that border semi-rural properties.
“Lucky my hubby stomped them out. It was just scary all night – absolutely chaotic,” she said.
Water bombers and fire crews have continued to battle the blaze throughout the day in scorching 39C temperatures.
Residents were hosing down their homes and packing bags in cars in preparation to evacuate as low-flying water bombers circled overhead.
Others ran sprinklers on their rooftops or stood in their front yards watching the large plume of smoke as it edged closer to their properties.
Deputy Premier Rita Saffioti said conditions had been challenging for fire crews and there had been “significant damage” to a number of properties.
“At this stage, 10 homes have been lost along with four sheds along with numerous … (and) a range of infrastructure,” she said.
Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said a huge amount of firefighting resources, including multiple water bombers, were battling the blaze.
“This is a significant fire … this will be a long-running incident and could take some time before the fire is brought under control given the situation we find ourselves in terms of the wind and high temperatures,” he said.
“The firefighters have been working incredibly hard to make sure we save as many homes as possible.”
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the fire broke containment lines in the early hours of Thursday with spot fires breaking out about a kilometre ahead of the fire front.
“The fire progressed really quickly to the west and the influence of those winds,” he said.
It continues to be fanned by northeasterly winds in semi-rural suburbs and is moving fast in a south-westerly direction, with warnings more embers are likely to land on homes.
A number of firefighters have suffered smoke inhalation and minor injuries and one crew was involved in a “burnover ” incident while in a truck.
Teams are assessing damage to properties so evacuated residents can be informed, with fears more destroyed homes could be found.
More than 1000 properties in the bushfire area are without power and over 500 emergency service personnel have been called to the scene.
An emergency warning remains in place for Wanneroo, Carramar Jandabup, Mariginiup, Melaleuca, Sinagra, Banksia Grove and Tapping, about 30km north of the city centre.
The Commonwealth-owned Centre for National Resilience at Bullsbrook will be opened for people evacuated from their homes and emergency service personnel responding to the fires.
The fire was reported just after midday on Wednesday and 18 square kilometres of bush and grassland have been burned, according to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.