Australia — FIREFIGHTERS have saved up to 200 homes as they battled a massive bushfire south of Perth yesterday which damaged at least six houses.
A public meeting in the southern suburbs of Banjup, Aubin Grove and Atwell in the City of Cockburn and Forrestdale was told hundreds of properties were saved from the blaze which began on Monday.
At another community meeting this afternoon, residents whose properties are in the fire zone were told they can return home.
Six properties were partially damaged by the fire, which began just after noon and burned through nearly 500 hectares.
It is understood a number of horses may have perished in the flames.
Nearly 50 power poles were also damaged in the fire and will need to be replaced, leaving more than 120 homes without power.
The fire is contained and under control, and no longer moving – but firefighters are braced for flare-ups, with temperatures and winds rising in Perth. A watch and act alert remains.
In praising the firefighters for their efforts, emergency services minister Joe Francis said suggestions the fire may have been deliberately lit were horrifying. He said arson was “akin to urban terrorism”.
This afternoon, 60 career and volunteer Fire and Rescue Service, Bush Fire Service and Department of Parks and Wildlife firefighters were at the scene.
Urban Search and Rescue Damage Assessment Teams are also present, with State Emergency Service, WA Police, Local Government and St Johns Ambulance and the Department of Child Protection and Family Support also offering support.
An aerial intelligence helicopter has also conducted surveillance of the fire ground on Tuesday morning, with video footage shown to residents.
At the height of the blaze yesterday 200 firefighters were involved in the battle to contain the bushfire and protect homes and lives.
Firefighters have downgraded the fire threat from “Severe” to “Watch and Act” but the alert remains for people in Banjup, Aubin Grove and Atwell, in the City of Cockburn, and the western part of Forrestdale in the City of Armadale.
“The fire is contained and under control,” a 10am DFES alert said.
Western Power said crews had begun replacing 48 power poles damaged by the fire.
“This morning crews replaced 20 power poles and are continuing work on rebuilding the remainder of the network,” a spokesman said.
There were 110 properties without power and some may remain off overnight.
Some homes may need an electrician to check their wiring is safe before it is reconnected to the network, Western Power advised.
RESIDENTS FIND HOMES INTACT
Relieved residents are today counting their blessings as they return to fire-damaged properties which were saved by hero firefighters – or good fortune.
Tony and Pilar Robinson said they left their Banjup home at 1.30pm yesterday and until this morning did not know the fate of their Liddelow Road home.
“We waited until we could see naked flames,” Mr Robinson said.
“We have two big dogs, we got the dogs and we left everything behind,” Mrs Robinson said.
As they left, they saw smoke and flames all around them.
“You would look out at the sky and see a dark plume of smoke,” Mr Robinson said.
Banjup man Ian Thurston, who is vice-president of the Banjup Resident’s Group, returned to his property this morning to survey the fire damage.
He told PerthNow he left as soon as he had to.
He came back this morning to find his house and shed had survived the blaze, but bush all around his home burnt to a crisp.
When he went to check on his camper trailer, he discovered it had been moved by a good samaritan neighbout to beside his house for safety.
“It’s just a great thing to have done,” Mr Thurston said.
“We’re so grateful.”
Allan Zweck came to this morning’s meeting with his 89-year-old father-in-law Albert Buckland, who has has lived on his semi-rural Schofield Road property for 26 years.
He was evacuated by his other children yesterday to his granddaughter’s house in Hammond Park.
Mr Buckland said the fire was “too close”.
“You could see the flames and the helicopters,” he said.
“It was coming directly towards my place.”
Mr Zweck said it was an anxious night for the family.
“We want to get back and see what the real story is,” he said.
Mr Zweck said his wife found out through Facebook her father’s house was fine, but the five acre property had been burnt and one shed possibly razed.
Patrick Taaffe was sitting at his Mandurah beach house when he got a phone call from his daughter about the fire.
By the time Mr Taaffe got to Banjup, the roads were already blocked to his Wilga Court home.
“It’s been 24 years of bliss, but yesterday was devastating,” he said.
Mr Taaffe’s home has been put up for sale, but he said it might take a bit longer for it to sell.
Burnt bush runs around the perimeter of his house, including his front garden.
His wooden fence has been destroyed, but his home stands unharmed.
Mr Taaffe said the efforts of his children, putting sprinklers on the roof, and firefighters fending off the flames saved the property.
“There’s not too much more that can go up in flames,” he said.
Mr Taaffe’s neighbour Mike Rooney said he had to evacuate his home.
He said when the fire caught in a bush reserve, he was sure the entire street would be gone.
“I thought, that’s it, we’re in trouble. That’s always been my worst nightmare it’s a massive big reserve that’s never been control burned and there’s a howling easterly wind,” Mr Rooney said.
“We’ve had a couple of fire scares over the years, but nothing like this, I’ve never had to evacuate.”
The fire went right through Mr Rooney’s property, but missed his house.
Mr Rooney was angry when he heard the fire that destroyed almost 500 hectares of bush was possibly deliberately lit.
“I think the people who do these…It should be the equivalent to a murder charge, 20 years jail,” he said.
HOT, WINDY CONDITIONS
Firefighters face another tough day with hot and windy conditions forecast for Perth, with temperatures reaching 37C just before 1.30pm and strong winds set to hit the area after lunchtime.
“There’s still a fairly high level of emergency,” the DFES spokesman said.
“There have been a lot of flare-ups and strong easterly winds.”
A bushfire WATCH AND ACT remains for people in Banjup, Aubin Grove and Atwell in the City of Cockburn and the western part of Forrestdale in the City of Armadale.
Firefighters are strengthening containment lines and will continue blacking out today.
Urban Search and Rescue Damage Assessment Teams are on the scene.
DFES State Emergency Service, WA Police, Local Government and St Johns Ambulance and the Department of Child Protection and Family Support are also on the scene.
An Aerial Intelligence helicopter is conducting surveillance of the fire ground this morning.
DFES says there have been reports of property damage but no reports of properties lost to the flames.
Flames, at times, were towering above the bushland canopy and the air is thick with black smoke.
An emergency warning has also been issued for Gibbs Road, Beenyup Road, Rowley Road and Lyon Road in Aubin Grove, but people in this area can leave for a safer place if the way is clear.
A temporary evacuation centre has been set up at Armadale Arena on the corner of Townley Street and Forrest Road in Armadale.
A community meeting will be held there this morning at 10am.
The cause of the fire, which is being fanned by strong winds, is unknown.
A watch and act alert remains in place for people from Tapper Road west to the Kwinana Freeway in the suburb of Atwell, which is north of Aubin Grove.
The bushfire is no longer moving.
The fire is contained and under control.
Firefighters are expecting gusty easterly winds to continue today.
A number of roads remain closed including:
Gibbs Road and Tapper Road in Aubin Grove
Kurrajong Approach and Sedge Link in Atwell
Gibbs Road between Pacific Avenue and Nicholson Road Atwell and Aubin Grove
Tapper Road at Bartram Road, Sedge Link and Beenyup Road in Banjup and Atwell
Beenyup Road at Gaebler Road in Aubin Grove and Banjup
Liddelow Road between Bartram Road and Wolfe Road in Banjup
Taylor Road between Oxley Road and Armadale Road in Forrestdale
The Department of Education has advised that all public schools are open today.