Perth bushfires destroy, damage 35 homes

Perth bushfires destroy, damage 35 homes

06 February 2011

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Australia — As helicopter water bombers flew overhead and kangaroos fled past them, residents of Roleystone in the Perth hills used hoses, rakes and gum tree branches to battle a bushfire that damaged or destroyed 35 homes.

The fast-moving fire started just before noon (WST) on Sunday and firefighters were hard-pressed to contain the blaze as it was whipped up by high winds.

On Sunday evening it continued to threaten other homes in Roleystone and the nearby bush-fringed community of Kelmscott where emergency warnings were in place and hundreds of residents evacuated.
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The fire took hold as 150 firefighters and aerial bombers battled another big blaze at the edge of the Swan Valley to the north where homes, vineyards and farms were also threatened.

It is not yet known how the fires started.

Residents on Sunday afternoon were working with shovels, hoses, rakes and even branches to quell burnt-over hotspots as flames continued to burn timber in front of them.

Local resident Bennett Moran was using a gum tree branch to beat down flames where the fire had gone through, saying he had done what he could to protect his house.

“I saw these guys jumping in so I thought I would give them a hand,” he told AAP as a kangaroo fled past from the fire zone.

Aerial water bombers were busy on both major fires east of Perth, with the rocky terrain making it difficult for vehicles to get in.

Relocation centres have been set up near both fires and residents of a nursing home in Kelmscott have been evacuated to a shopping centre.

Many roads have been closed in threatened areas and residents who have left will not be allowed back until the all-clear is given.

At the relocation centre in Roleystone, retired couple Dave and Carole Locke arrived with their cat Daisy in a box along with photographs and other cherished possessions.

“When the phone rang and they said, ‘Get out’, we got out,” Mr Locke said.

The Swan Valley fire started about 9.15pm (WST) on Saturday, forcing more than 100 people to evacuate their homes overnight.

Evacuations continued throughout the day as the fire advanced, residents packing up pets and 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.”

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

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.

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