Perth, February 2
An out-of-control wildfire burning northeast of the Australian west coast city of Perth has destroyed an estimated 30 homes and was threatening more Tuesday, with many locals across the region told it is too late to leave.
The almost 7,000-hectare (17,000-acre) blaze, which has a 60-kilometer (37-mile) perimeter, began on Monday and raged through the night near the town of Wooroloo, with the shires of Mundaring, Chittering, Northam, and the city of Swan impacted.
Swan Mayor Kevin Bailey said more than 30 homes were believed to have been destroyed.
“We are just waiting for confirmation of the numbers but we’re looking somewhere in the vicinity of 30-plus homes lost,” Bailey told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Bailey said one firefighter had been treated for smoke inhalation. There had been no other injuries.
Western Australia state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the blaze had burned through 6,667 hectares (16,475 acres) by Tuesday.
People in a 25-kilometer (16-mile) stretch west from Wooroloo to the Walyunga National Park northeast of Perth had been told Tuesday it had become too dangerous to leave their homes.
“You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you,” the latest warning said.
Roads out of semi-rural suburb The Vines on Perth’s northern outskirts were bumper-to-bumper with traffic, leaving some choosing to stay.
Melissa Stahl (49) received a text telling her to evacuate.
“I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke,” she said. “We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there,” she added.
A warning to other threatened areas told people to leave if they were not prepared to fight the blaze.
The bushfire was unpredictable and weather conditions were rapidly changing, the warning said, urging people to stay vigilant.
The cause of the blaze is unknown.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent Peter Sutton said about 250 firefighters had been battling erratic fire behavior.
“It has made it very hard, near on impossible … to suppress this fire,” Sutton said.
Wildfires are common during the current South Hemisphere summer. However the season has been mild on Australia’s southeast coast which was devastated by massive fires last summer. AP