Australia — A fire that has razed up to 20 properties in the Margaret River region is tonight contained but still not under control.A bushfire emergency warning has been issued for people in the Kilcarnup, Prevelly and wilderness subdivisions and the area north of Wallcliffe Road and east of Caves Road in the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.
The Department of Environment and Conservation has warned that it is too late to leave the area and have advised people to take shelter inside their homes as far from the firefront as possible.
The department has confirmed that up to 20 properties have been damaged or destroyed.
The Deputy Chief of the Augusta-Margaret River fire service, David Holland, told the ABC that fire containment lines will be strengthened overnight to better cope with expected flare-ups.
“Hopefully they’ll stay within the [already] burnt area,” he said.
Mr Holland says that travelling from Perth to check on holiday houses in the region is ill-advised.
“If you have a house west of Caves Road in the Prevelly area, don’t bother as you won’t be allowed in… if you have a house east of Caves Road, you may want to come down, but it’s just not a good idea at the moment… you’re not going to be able to do a great deal.”
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Dozens of residents have fled to the beach, from where they can see thick smoke and flames.
Prevelly resident Marie Tweedie evacuated there about 3pm and still has received no news about her home.
“All I can see is a wall of smoke,” she told WAtoday.com.au.
“Our property is on a ridge, [which is] all burnt out or in flames.
“I think [her house] might be okay for the moment; the big trouble is if the wind turns easterly.”
Prevelly resident Deirdre Bulldock, who has evacuated from her rural property, said the fire front was “massive” and winds threatened to cause havoc.
“The wind has been what you call that horrible devil wind, [it’s] howling northerly,” she told 6PR.
“It’s come through very quickly down the back of the ridge, along Caves Road.
“The whole of the ridge is smouldering and smoking and there are spot fires and this other, second massive plume seems to be coming down.
“Hopefully it misses us and keeps going south.”
The fire started this morning and has already burned at least 1000 hectares.
There have been complaints that the blaze is the result of an out of control prescribed burn.
DEC said it had conducted a prescribed burn in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park on November 10 but it was completed yesterday.
“We understand that this fire is a result of winds picking up an ember from a hot spot and carrying it over the burn boundary today,” a statement says.
What to do
DEC said it would be deadly to attempt to leave the area now, whether on foot or in a vehicle, and they should attempt to actively defend their home.
“Take shelter inside furthest away from the fire front and make sure you can easily escape,” their advice says.
“It is best to shelter in a room with two exits and a water supply such as a kitchen or laundry.
“You must seek shelter before the fire arrives as the very hot radiant heat will kill you well before the flames reach you.
“Protect yourself with long sleeves, long trousers and strong leather boots.
“If your home catches on fire and the conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt.”
According to DEC the fire is moving in a southerly direction towards Kilcarnup at around 200 metres an hour. It is out of control and unpredictable. There have been unconfirmed reports the homestead has been damaged.
Firefighters are expecting the wind to change from north-west to the east about 10pm. This means homes to the east and south may still be impacted by the fire and you need to keep up to date.
Margaret River resident Brett Leighton said there was thick smoke in the area and emergency vehicles were travelling with their sirens on.
He said there had been reports of several burnt houses and the weather conditions were unfavourable.
“There’s pretty ominous signs; looking west from the town [of Margaret River] there’s tonnes of smoke,” he said.
“The wind is from the north but if we get a south-westerly you don’t know what will happen.”
So far more than 1000 hectares have been burnt.
DEC is warning those who have not yet left the area to do so immediately, taking a survival kit.
“If you have not prepared your home, it is too late to do it now, your safest option is to leave,” the bushfire emergency warning says.
“Do not relocate at the last minute in a vehicle or on foot as this is deadly.
“If you are prepared to the highest level and plan to use your home as shelter, start patrolling your property to put out spot fires. If you cannot leave, you need to get ready to take shelter in your home and actively defend it.”
Relocation points and road closures
Prevelly, Gnarabup and Kilcarnup residents have been advised to evacuate as the blaze moves closer.
Residents in Kilcarnup have been advised to go north on Caves Road and turn right into Carters Road, then south along Bussell Highway towards Margaret River townsite.
Prevelly residents have been asked to take Wallcliffe Road to Margaret River.
A relocation point has been set up at the Margaret River Cultural Centre on Wallcliffe Road, next to the Shire office.
Motorists are being warned to avoid Caves Road between Ellen Brook Road and Wallcliffe Road which have both been closed.
The Cape to Cape walk trail between Gracetown and Margaret River has also been closed.
More than 60 fire crews from DEC, Fire and Rescue Service and local volunteer bushfire brigades are on the scene.
Two fixed-wing water bombers are assisting ground crews.
The DEC spokesman said the fire was related to a prescribed burn in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park that was completed earlier this week.
Fire warnings elsewhere in the state
The Bureau of Meteorology also has issued a catastrophic fire danger rating for inland parts of the Central Wheatbelt for tomorrow.
The warning includes the shires of Dalwallinu, Koorda and Wongan-Ballidu.
The bureau says conditions are forecast to be the worst for a bush or grass fire and people in the area are urged to stay alert and watch for signs of fire and have a bushfire survival plan and kit ready.
There also is a severe to extreme fire danger for the the Central West and inland parts of both the Central Wheatbelt and the Great Southern.
“Fires can threaten suddenly and without warning,” a statement from the bureau issued about 4.30pm says.
“Keep up to date with fire information through local radio, websites and TV. Do not wait for a warning before you act. If you see flames call triple zero.”
The BOM cancelled an earlier warning for a severe to extreme fire for coastal parts of the Central West.