Dozens evacuated as Australian wildfire burns out of control

23 November 2023, 11:44

Australia Wildfire
Australia Wildfire. Picture: PA

Western Australia is experiencing unusually high spring temperatures.

Dozens of residents have been evacuated and at least 10 homes destroyed by a wildfire burning out of control on the northern fringe of the Australian west coast city of Perth during a heatwave, authorities said.

There were no deaths reported, but several firefighters had sustained minor injuries including smoke inhalation, Western Australia state department of fires and emergency services commissioner Darren Klemm said.

The fire began Wednesday afternoon in a pine tree plantation on Perth’s north-east edge and was fanned overnight by 37mph winds, incident controller Clinton Kuchel said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Australia Wildfire
West Australian firefighters watch as grassland burns near the West Australian city of Wannaroo (DFES via AP)

The temperature in Perth is forecast to peak at 40C on Thursday – which is extraordinarily hot for the Southern Hemisphere spring – and winds remain strong.

Mr Kuchel told the Australian Broadcasting Corp: “Perth is experiencing … heatwave conditions. So overlay that on top of the fire and you can imagine the conditions that our firefighters and our support staff are working on. It’s really challenging”

“Whilst we’re building containment lines on this fire, the conditions and the environment are such that even if we contain it, it may not be contained all the time. There may be breakouts. So it’s a really challenging and dynamic environment.”

Power poles had been damaged and 544 homes were without power on Thursday. Around 130 people spent Wednesday night in an evacuation centre, Western Australia deputy premier Rita Saffioti said.

Australia Wildfire
Dozens of residents have been evacuated (Australian Broadcasting Corporation/CH7/CH9 via AP)

“The forecast for today is unforgiving. The temperature is expected to hit a maximum of 40 degrees, and the winds continue to be strong. Today will be a difficult day for everybody,” she told reporters.

Mr Klemm said the 150 firefighters battling the blaze would take several days to bring it under control.

In the northern Perth suburb of Tapping, Sarah Kilian and her husband stayed to defend their home over Wednesday night. Ms Kilian said most of her neighbours evacuated as embers rained down on their homes.

“Lucky my hubby stomped them out,” Ms Kilian said. “It was just scary all night – absolutely chaotic.”

Scores of wildfires have recently raged across the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania as Australia’s driest September on record and unusually warm weather brought an early start to the annual wildfire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer.

By Press Association

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