Firebugs have taken advantage of Perth’s second hottest Christmas Day in almost 100 years by lighting two bushfires close to each other in the city’s north, authorities say.
Meanwhile, a third large bushfire has broken containment lines and is burning out of control in Perth’s south, after temperatures on Christmas Day reached 40.7 degrees, fanned by oven-like north-easterly winds.
Firefighters have been called to more than 120 incidents around Perth since Monday, when temperatures reached 35.9 degrees.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Noel Puzey said Tuesday was second hottest Christmas Day on record since 1915. Only Christmas Day 1968 was marginally hotter with 42 degrees, he said.
Wednesday’s top of 41 degrees should be followed by a cooler change to the low 30s on Thursday, when the massive high-pressure system currently fanning Perth with hot winds from across the continent moves on, he said.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) spokesman Don Fazio said more than 150 firefighters had spent a large part of Christmas Day working on the three major blazes still burning in Perth’s north and south.
Authorities are hunting the serial arsonist or arsonists believed responsible for lighting the two fires in Perth’s northern suburbs this early morning, at the Marangaroo golf course and at Warrick Open Space Reserve.
Mr Fazio said the two fires in suburban bush reserves, only a few kilometres apart, had been contained and they had not damaged property.
“These fires were deliberately lit, with multiple ignition points, and we know that there is a serial arsonist or arsonists working in the area,” Mr Fazio said.
The third bushfire, about 60km away in the southern suburb of Orelia, jumped containment lines in the afternoon.
Mr Fazio said more 100 firefighters were battling to control the Orelia blaze, on the city’s urban fringe, which has scorched more than 500 hectares since starting on Monday.
The forecast for Boxing Day of more hot easterly winds and a top temperature of 41 degrees will make conditions more difficult for firefighters, he said.
The public has been urged to report any suspicious activity that may be related to the lighting of fires.
Police have stepped up patrols to catch the firebugs.
A bureau of meteorology fire weather warning is current for WA’s Central West District, the Lower West Inland sub-district and the Central Wheat Belt.
Hot conditions with fresh winds are expected to bring extreme fire danger in these areas, a bureau statement says.