WA firefighters have spent the past week battling raging bushfires fuelled by high temperatures and howling winds in what has been a horror start to 2021.
More than 9000ha — including farmland — has been burnt since December 31, with hundreds of firefighters deployed to several blazes threatening lives and homes and closing highways across the State.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ new 15,000L capacity Large Air Tanker — which was added to the State’s aerial firefighting fleet just weeks ago — was called in to provide aerial support.
Over the weekend, emergency warnings were issued for residents of Wundowie in the shire of Northam, as well as for several areas including Red Gully, Ocean Farms Estate and Lancelin in the shires of Gingin and Dandaragan (pictured).
As of Tuesday, the Gingin-Dandaragan fire — which forced residents to flee and take refuge at an evacuation centre in Guilderton — was still ablaze at an emergency level, with 7200ha burnt.
DFES reinstated its emergency warning for the fast-moving fire north of Perth on Monday afternoon after it jumped containment lines, with embers starting spot fires up to 200m ahead of the blaze. The cause has been deemed accidental.
New Year’s Eve lightning strikes sparked several other blazes across the State, burning 1138ha in Norseman, 680ha in Hopetoun and 330ha in Parker Range, about 100km south-east of Southern Cross.
Smaller fires were also monitored in the Stirling Ranges, Cundeelee, West Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Menzies, Wallaroo, Boorabbin and Beverley.
Speaking on Monday, Department of Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters said while most of the blazes across the State had been contained, the week’s hot, dry and windy conditions created a “world of hurt” for firefighters.
“The adverse weather conditions, the high temperatures associated also with the extreme wind gusts have made it extremely challenging for firefighters across the State in bringing these fires under control,” he said.
“We do have adverse conditions leading into this week, with temperatures up in the high 30s right up until Saturday. So we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Mr Waters encouraged West Aussies to have fire plans in place and be aware of their surroundings and conditions this bushfire season.
“(What) we’ve seen the last couple of years with increased climate change is that fires are burning well into the evening, (with) the same fire behaviour same fire intensity… Normally you get a bit of a lull, you get a bit of a reprieve at night.”
“But I think last year’s fires up in Yanchep that we saw active fires burning throughout the night is going to be seen also in WA this year as well.”