An out-of-control bushfire burning in Perth’s northeastern suburbs has doubled in size and destroyed about 30 homes, with authorities checking if lives have been lost in one badly hit area.
The massive blaze with a 75-kilometre perimeter raged through the night near the hills town of Wooroloo before moving west onto the city’s coastal plain where it is threatening homes in the northern suburbs.
Temperatures are expected to reach 37C on Tuesday and hot easterly winds packing gusts up to 65km/h are forecast.
Premier Mark McGowan says 80 per cent of all properties in a rural suburb near Gidgegannup have been lost.
“(Firefighters) will be conducting inquiries at the Tilden Park fire scene this morning in an attempt to establish where there has been any loss of life,” he told reporters.
Mr McGowan said a large aerial tanker was en route from NSW to help battle the blaze and the prime minister had been briefed on the situation.
“This is an extremely dangerous fire and a serious situation. Weather conditions are extremely volatile,” he said.
“Please do everything you can to keep you and your family safe and look after each other.”
Earlier, Swan mayor Kevin Bailey said more than 30 homes are believed to have been destroyed.
“The fire has now come down out of the hills towards the flat part of the plains, so there’s an awful lot of smoke through the northern suburbs,” he told the ABC.
People in Perth’s CBD and coastal suburbs are reporting ash landing at their homes, up to 35km from the blaze.
Operations at RAAF Base Pearce – which is in the path of the fire – have been suspended and preparations are being made to evacuate.
Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters said the fire had doubled in size overnight and burned through 7366 hectares.
“Strong winds are hampering us getting in and containing the fire and bringing it under control,” he said.
People in a 25km stretch west from Wooroloo to the Walyunga National Park northeast of Perth have been told it is too late to leave.
“You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you,” the latest DFES warning said.
Jenni Stanton, 59, received a text about 2am telling her to evacuate from her home at The Vines, which is about a kilometre from the blaze.
But she and her husband decided to stay put, saying the roads out of the semi-rural suburb were bumper-to-bumper with traffic.
“The fire has jumped the Great Northern Highway west of Walyunga, so it’s closer to us now,” she told AAP mid-morning.
“The yard is covered in ash and we can hear the water bombers.”
Neighbour Melissa Stahl, 49, received the same text.
“I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke,” she said.
“My husband Michael said we better go.
“We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there.”
Meanwhile, surrounding areas including Parkerville, Ellenbrook, Chidlow and Jane Brook have been told to leave if they are not prepared to fight the blaze.
Evacuation centres have been set up at the Brown Park Recreation Complex in Swan View and Swan Active in Midland.
Kira Rutter, 21, fled her home in Ellenbrook about 3am to Brown Park.
She said there were up to 300 people at the centre.
“Everyone is wearing masks and social distancing and we’re a really supportive little community at the moment,” she said.
“But I’m getting a bit anxious now, the smoke has started to reach here.”