An out-of-control bushfire burning in the Perth Hills has destroyed up to 30 homes and is threatening more, with many locals across the region told it is too late to leave.
The 6000-hectare blaze – which has a 60km perimeter – raged through the night near the town of Wooroloo, with the shires of Mundaring, Chittering, Northam, and the City of Swan impacted.
Temperatures are expected to reach 37C on Tuesday with hot easterly winds with gusts up to 65 km/h forecast for the hills area until the afternoon.
Swan mayor Kevin Bailey said more than 30 homes are believed to have been destroyed.
“We are just waiting for confirmation of the numbers but we’re looking somewhere in the vicinity of 30-plus homes lost,” he told the ABC.
Residents as far away as 40km in the coastal suburb of Sorrento are reporting ash landing at their homes.
Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services has updated its emergency warning for the blaze, which has burned through 6667 hectares.
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.
“You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you,” the latest warning said.
Jenni Stanton, 59, received a text about 2am telling her to evacuate from her home at The Vines, west of Walyunga National Park.
But she and her husband decided to stay put, saying the roads out of the semi-rural suburb in Perth’s north were bumper-to-bumper with traffic.
“The fire has jumped the Great Northern Highway west of Walyunga, so it’s closer to us now but there’s isn’t as much smoke as last night,” she told AAP.
“The yard is covered in ash though, and we can hear the water bombers.”
Neighbour Melissa Stahl, 49, received the same text.
“I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke,” she said.
“My husband Michael said we better go.
“We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there.”
They fled to a friend’s home where they’re now waiting for a text giving them the all-clear to return to their home.
Meanwhile, surrounding areas including Parkerville, Ellenbrook, Chidlow and Jane Brook have been told to leave if they are not prepared to fight the blaze.
The bushfire is unpredictable and weather conditions are rapidly changing, the warning said, urging people to stay vigilant.
COVID-19 Lockdown, bushfires, smoke and ash falling, cyclone and flooding up north. Does Western Australia win Apocalypse Bingo 2021 Edition? pic.twitter.com/9T27CeeCSi
— Somniare 🦎 (@fortesomniare) February 2, 2021
The cause of the blaze is unknown.
DFES Superintendent Peter Sutton said about 250 firefighters had been battling erratic fire behaviour.
“It has made it very hard, near on impossible… to suppress this fire,” he said.
An evacuation centre has been set up at Brown Park Recreation Complex on Amherst Road in Swan View.
DFES said anyone forced to leave their homes should wear a mask and continue to follow social distancing precautions to comply with Western Australia’s current COVID-19 health regulations.