Australia — RESIDENTS of the timber town of Northcliffe, 366km south of Perth, evacuated their homes overnight as a bushfire threatens their community. An emergency warning is in place for residents as 70 fire fighters worked through the night trying to contain the blaze, which yesterday jumped containment lines as it burned at speeds of up to 1200 metres an hour.
The fire is expected to move even faster today, fuelled by southerly winds forecast for the day, which will threaten new containment lines built overnight.
Seven aircraft, including four water bombers have been called in to help fight the raging bushfire.
About 100 DEC personnel, supported by FESA, Shire of Manjimup, volunteer bushfire brigades and plantation companies, are working to control and contain the fire on the western and northern boundaries.
Firefighters are being assisted by 21 fire trucks, four machines and seven aircraft, including four water bombers and a type 1 aircraft.
Overnight the blaze got to within 8km south of Northcliffe.
Incident controller Peter Keppel said police doorknocked between 35 and 40 homes during the night, telling people to leave.
Residents of Northcliffe, which has a population 400, and surrounding areas remain on high alert.
Northcliffe District High School has been closed for the day.
“Yesterday afternoon we had an escape from the western side of the fire and that has ran through a block of national park and that has the potential to run into the bottom end of Northcliffe,” Mr Keppel said.
“For that reason we made the decision to evacuate between 35 and 40 houses.”
Mr Keppel said the fire has now burnt 28,000 hectares of land.
An evacuation centre has been set up in the Pemberton Sports Centre, where about 15 people are believed to be taking shelter.
Others are believed to be staying with family friends.
A DEC spokeswoman said: “The reason we’ve got an emergency warning in place is because there is a wind change forecast and once that comes through things are going to change really quickly,” she said.
“So we’ve had get people moving and aware of the situation early on.
“We think there’s a very real risk that it will get over those containment lines … they’ve been working all night on them but once that wind change comes through things are really unpredictable and it’ll happen very fast.”
The fire has been burning for 12 days and was started by a lightning strike on February 9.
The fire left Perth under a blanket of haze for almost four days last week, as winds pushed the smoke over the city.