Houses under threat as flames approach Waroona

Houses under threat as flames approach Waroona

30 January 2015

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Australia — A total fire ban has been declared in Perth today as fire crews battle a bushfire in Waroona.

After upgrading the fire to an emergency warning this morning, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services has since downgraded the The alert level for the lightning-sparked bushfire has been downgraded with firefighters making progress.

The alert was on Friday morning elevated to an emergency as the blaze sped towards the town but 35 firefighters are building containment lines and it is now moving slowly.

A downgraded watch and act alert still applies to people in the eastern part of Waroona bounded by Nanga Brook Road, Scarp Road, Invarell Road, Drake Brook, Brookside Grange, Elliot Street and Hill Street, including Woodley Heights and Forrington Heights.

Houses in Forrington Heights may still be under threat by fire.

It is out of control and unpredictable, and conditions are changing.

The thunderstorm on Thursday, which ended a 61-day dry spell, also triggered blazes in Forrestfield and around Perth Airport, but firefighters gave the all clear for these early today

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman said the total fire ban was due to risky weather conditions and firefighter fatigue.

Firefighters have been kept very busy in the past few weeks, battling two major fires in the northern suburbs and many smaller bushfires across the city.

Earlier this week, there were times when the department did not have as many crews as it would have liked at the Nowergup fire simply because of a lack of resources.

The fire ban is designed to give firefighters a chance to recover.

“It’s a relatively uncommon situation,” he said.

“It’s because of the weather conditions and the drain and exhaustion of current resources.”

Businesses wishing to carry out metal work or any other activity which could start a fire must have an exemption or they risk prosecution.

The DFES spokesman said most businesses were aware of the exemption process.

“To get an exemption you have to satisfy a number of criteria regarding trained personnel and satisfactory equipment,” he said.

“You need to have access to a mobile water tanker, for example.”

Department of Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner Chris Arnol warned that lightning and strong winds would create dangerous fire conditions over the next week, with the small amounts of rain forecast not enough to put out fires.

“Some of the worst fires the State has experienced started in similar weather conditions to what we are expecting over the next week, so we are on high alert,” he said.

Thunderstorms swept across the city early yesterday, filling rain gauges with about 13.4mm – the first fall in 61 days.

Lightning closed beaches, sparked about 36 fires, delayed flights and left tens of thousands of homes without power as storms made the humidity stifling. More hot weather and storms were forecast for today and the weekend.

Western Power crews worked to restore power to almost 27,000 homes and about 3100 customers were without power last night.

The humidity also meant yesterday felt hotter than it was. The science of muggy weather was complicated but Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Neil Bennett said dew point, not relative humidity, was the crucial measure.

This was the temperature at which water vapour in the air condensed into liquid and generally the higher it was, the more humid it felt.

High levels of moisture in the air hamper the cooling evaporation of sweat and, with light winds, lead to a higher “apparent temperature”.

“Once you get to a dew point of 18 or 19 degrees and above, it is going to start to feel unpleasant,” Mr Bennett said. By 1pm, it was 27C in Perth but the apparent temperature was 30.4. The dew point was 22C, compared with 15C and 10C the previous two days.

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