A total of 81 homes have been destroyed by an out-of-control bushfire in Perth’s northeast as firefighters get ready to 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 about 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.”
Mr McGowan said a second large air tanker had arrived in Perth from NSW to help fight the fire.
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.
About 500 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 said.
“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.”
Mr Brisbane said conditions were relatively calm on Thursday.
But strong easterly winds forecast for later in the day 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 said.
“It just has to come down the hill to get to us, and if it wants to, it will. It’s all wind-related.”
An alert is 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. You need to shelter in your home in a room away from the fire front and make sure you can easily escape,” Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said.
The blaze 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.
More than 1300 homes and businesses in the region remain without electricity after the blaze damaged about 800 power poles and 100 transformers.