Australia — THE owner of the historic Southampton Homestead, which was gutted by bushfires that swept through Western Australia’s southwest, has thanked friends and neighbours who risked their lives trying to save the property.
The homestead was destroyed late on Wednesday by fires that were started by lightning and burned through Southampton, Greenbushes, the western part of Bridgetown, Hester Brook, Wandillup and Maranup.
With 200 firefighters still battling the blazes on Thursday evening, a watch and act alert remains in place for the town of Greenbushes and areas south to Dalgarup plantation in the shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.
A previous emergency warning has been downgraded, even though the bushfires remain a serious threat to lives and homes.
Jeff Pow, the owner of the 150 year-old Victorian-Georgian homestead situated on the banks of the Blackwood River, was in London on business when the fire began.
“We were … unable to defend or assist the gallant firefighting efforts of friends and neighbours, who have put their lives on the line fighting to save our home,” Mr Pow said in a statement.
“As new farmers, we are also deeply distressed by the injuries sustained by the many varieties of animals on the farm and at a dream literally gone up in flames.
“Our loss is compounded by the loss to the West Australian public of a irreplaceable historical treasure.”
It is the second historic homestead to be destroyed in the bushfire season, after Wallcliffe House was burned down in the recent Margaret River fires.
“We hope this sends a clear message to the state and federal government heritage agencies to act with haste and to provide deluge fire defence systems for the remaining colonial properties before they share our fate,” Mr Pow said.
Meanwhile, a watch and act warning was also released for the Kin Kin area, and Andrew and Cardac state forests in the shires of Manjimup and Nannup.
Several fires started in the area at about 4pm (WST) on Tuesday from lightning strikes.
Greenbushes Primary School and Balingup Primary School were closed on Thursday but will reopen on Friday.
Western Power said electricity had been restored to more than 400 properties that were without power overnight.
About 25 properties in and around Southampton may be without electricity for several days after the fires destroyed part of the network.
Western Power believes the fires may have destroyed about 50 wood poles, but crews haven’t been able to get into the area to assess the damage because it is still unsafe.
The Department of Environment and Conservation advises that smoke from as many as 20 bushfires in the southwest over the past two days will affect the coast south of Perth and the metropolitan area.
The smoke is expected to clear on Thursday afternoon as the sea breeze comes in but could build up again overnight.