Australia — WA firefighters were stretched to breaking point yesterday when big fires bore down on Perth from the east and north and the blaze which killed three truck drivers in the Goldfields continued to rage out of control.
Firefighters were recalled from leave and waterbombing planes were scrambled from Bunbury as fires sprang up across a tinder-dry metropolitan area.
About 150 firefighters battled a massive fire which threatened hundreds of homes in the Perth Hills late yesterday. Residents in the semi-rural suburbs of Parkerville, Stoneville and Mt Helena were warned to evacuate as a fire which started in bush near Kilburn Road just before 1.30pm tore through 200ha of bone-dry bush.
The blaze destroyed three homes, a holiday unit and a shed filled with antique cars.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesman Bruce Jones said two firefighters were taken to hospital suffering
smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion but there were no other injuries.
About 100 sheep and other livestock were killed and Mundaring rangers were shooting injured kangaroos.
We have 150 firefighters in 50 appliances, two fixed-wing water bombers, four helitacs and a fire king chopper fighting this, Mr Jones said.
Firefighters were unable to save the Parkerville home owned by Raenette and David Smith.
I had to run through the back and out a fire gate to get to our neighbours, Mrs Smith said. My legs were burnt by embers and I had to put out some embers that singed the fur of one of the dogs.
By 10pm the blaze was largely contained.
A second bushfire near the northern suburb of Cullacabardee damaged one property, threatened others and forced visitors to evacuate popular picnic spot Whiteman Park.
The blaze started soon before 2.30pm and forced police to close part of Beechboro Road as fire burnt through more than 200ha of bush. Residents were being evacuated last night as the blaze jumped Gnangara Road, causing many spot fires in the nearby pine plantation.
Fire and Rescue Service chief operations officer Craig Hynes said the service was barely coping as small fires in Jandabup, Forrestfield, Carine and Karawara stretched resources.
The Perth fires raged as volunteers continued battling the blaze near Coolgardie which killed Trevor Murley, of Hovea, and Two Rocks men Robert Wayne Taylor and Lewis Kenneth Bedford on Sunday.
Department of Environment and Conservation Goldfields regional manager Ian Kealley said fire crews had the section of the fire south of the highway largely under control but it was too early to tell when the fire would finally be beaten.
The West Australian understands the police arson squad has reached a stalemate in its investigation into the Goldfields blaze and its final report, which will be completed in about a fortnight, will class the fires cause as undetermined.
Evidence at the fires starting point had been badly damaged in the blaze, it emerged yesterday. The evidence would have been crucial to finding its cause.
But investigators have ruled out a natural cause and believe it was lit by a firebug or sparked accidentally.