More than 100 flee Perth bushfire

More than 100 flee Perth bushfire

06 February 2011

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Australia — Hundreds of residents on Perth’s bush-fringed eastern rim have spent a day nervously watching a blaze threatening their homes as gusting winds kept whipping it up.

Six helicopter water bombers and 150 firefighters battled the bushfire on Sunday as it raged out of control on the edge of the Darling Range, threatening farms, vineyards and lifestyle properties in the Swan Valley.

The fire, which started about 9.15pm (WST) on Saturday, forced more than 100 people to evacuate their homes overnight and had burnt through about 800 hectares by noon on Sunday.

Evacuations continued throughout the day as the fire advanced, residents packing up their pets and cherished possessions and loading horses and other livestock into floats and trailers.

Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) spokesman Rick Tyers said the fire was in “fairly inhospitable and rocky country” that was difficult to get vehicles into so the aerial bombers were doing most of the firefighting.

A strong southeasterly breeze and gusting winds were not making it easy.

“The winds are our worst enemy at the moment.

“If it gets very strong, they may have to cease the aerial attacks.”

Mr Tyers said the fire was surrounded but still out of control, unpredictable and threatening homes and it might take firefighters a couple of days to bring it under control.

An emergency warning remained in place for residents in Brigadoon, Baskerville, Millendon, Red Hill and Herne Hill in the City of Swan and a relocation centre has been set up at nearby Midvale.

Police roadblocks were in place around the fire with residents unable to return until the all-clear is given.

As a broad band of smoke drifted across the wine-growing district, residents stood outside their properties to watch the blaze as it advanced down the hills and as helicopters worked in relay to douse it.

One resident, leaving the area at midday with her husband and two children, said they had been advised that if they did not leave, authorities could not be responsible for their safety.

Pets and cherished possessions were piled in the family’s four-wheel-drive vehicle, and they had earlier shifted their five horses to safety elsewhere.

Denise and Lorry Cole were among those watching the fire’s progress down a bushclad ridge from a police roadblock on Sunday, unable to return to their home until given the all-clear.

They packed their toy poodle Monty, pet parrot Livingstone, photos and documents into their van and left their Padbury Avenue property in Herne Hill after midnight when authorities advised people to leave.

“The sky was bright red and sometimes you could see the flames, the wind was really gusty,” Ms Cole told AAP.

“The guys are doing their best. We’re ex-army so we take these things in our stride,” she said.

The Coles got no sleep overnight but were glad for coffee at the relocation centre where some evacuated residents turned up with horses in horse floats.

Mr Tyers said it was not known at this stage what caused the fire.

On Sunday afternoon FESA issued another emergency bushfire warning for parts of Roleystone and Kelmscott in Perth’s southeast in the City of Armadale.
Residents in several roads were warned to leave for a safer place as their houses could be hit by fire very quickly and there was a threat to lives.

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