‘Critical point’: Strong winds pose new danger in fight to contain Perth bushfire

A bushfire that’s continuing to burn dangerously out-of-control in Western Australia is showing no signs of letting up as gusty winds fan it and spread burning embers.

Residents evacuated from the emergency fire zone of the massive blaze are enduring a nervous wait for news about their houses and pets.

“Although we are trying to be positive, it’s hard to think that we could end up homeless,” Aveley mum Miglena Marinkova told The New Daily.

Like many others, Ms Marinkova has no idea whether she will see her home standing again.

So far, the bushfire has burnt through 11,000 hectares of land and destroyed 71 houses north-east of Perth.

The latest alert out at 5am (WA time) said flames were travelling in a north-westerly direction and that spot fires were starting 100 metres ahead of the main blaze. 

  • Emergency conditions can change very quickly. Follow this link here to find the latest information on conditions and fire direction.

Authorities will address evacuees at a community meeting in Swan View at 1pm (local time) on Thursday.

Fire commander Peter Sutton said one firefighter was in hospital on Thursday morning.

“He’s in Royal Perth Hospital, being treated for a hip injury,” he said.

“We ask everyone, all members of the public, to please remain vigilant. This is going to be a long-duration incident. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The Department of Communities has set up evacuation centres at:

  • Brown Park Recreation Complex on Amherst Road, near the intersection of Salisbury Road, Swan View;
  • Swan Active Midland – 16 Gray Drive, Midvale;
  • Swan Active Beechboro – 332 Benara Road, Beechboro.

Mr Sutton said the fight against the fire had reached a “critical point”.

The blaze, which has a perimeter of 126 kilometres, is being whipped up by strong southerly winds that are fanning flames towards homes north of the fire.

Authorities warned wind gusts of up to 70km/h were possible.

“We are getting reports of buildings under immediate threat,” Mr Sutton told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“We’re having multiple breakouts on the northern flank of the fire.”

The emergency warning, which the DFES updated early Thursday, said people in or around Clenton Road, Berry Road, Gidgegannup, Shady Hills Estate or East Bullsbrook were in immediate danger and it was too late to leave.

“You must shelter in place, or if you are prepared you must actively defend,” the DFES website said.

The fire is moving in north-west along the city’s coastal plain.

The bushfire smoke in Middle Swan. Photo: Rod Caddies

The blaze has broken containment lines on the south-west corner of the fire near Avon Ridge Estate and to the north along Berry Road in Gidgegannup.

“One of the biggest issues is the terrain around the fire areas, it’s very steep … a lot of valleys, a lot of hills, so we’re experiencing really flukey winds,” DFES Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters said on Wednesday ahead of an “extremely dangerous” night.

“The fire has [also] been spotting well ahead of the main head fire.”

Anxious wait

It’s been more than three days since Miglena Marinkova and her children evacuated from their home in the outer northern suburb of Aveley, where a bushfire emergency warning remains.

“This was a first for us to ever have to evacuate so we were very stressed,” Ms Marinkova said.

She has been waiting anxiously to see when it will be safe for her to return home, and if there will even be a home standing.

Ms Marinkova packed just bare essentials – food and clothes – after receiving a text message at 2am on Monday advising her to leave.

The family went to an evacuation centre before realising they would be away from their home for some time. They have since checked into temporary accommodation.

“We have had to spend money out of our savings for accommodation. It’s been very stressful not knowing what to expect,” Ms Marinkova said.

Although we are trying to be positive, it’s hard to think that we could end up homeless.

“We keep in contact with our neighbours and try to support each other as much as possible.”

Frankie Macri and partner Hannah Brown evacuated from an emergency warning area.

Like Ms Marinkova, Aveley resident Frankie Macri has no idea when he and his partner Hannah Brown will be able to return to their home after evacuating about 2am on Tuesday.

The couple is sheltering in Ms Brown’s parents’ house in Kelmscott, while Mr Macri keeps an eye on on the unfolding situation.

Not knowing if they will have a home to return to has made the 29-year-old “very anxious”, but he considers himself lucky “to have a home away from home”.

Race against time

About 15 kilometres away in Middle Swan is Rod Caddies, 49, who runs a horse riding school with his wife Monique, a veterinary nurse.

Mr Caddies said there was so much smoke that his wife had to take their 16 horses to the Orange Grove Horse and Pony Club, which had volunteers on standby to care for evacuated animals.

The view from Rod Caddies’ home on Monday.

It was a race against time on Monday to prevent other horses from inhaling the bushfire smoke, which Mr Caddies said could cause them serious health problems.

Rod and Monique Caddies helped evacuate a total of 55 horses to the Orange Grove Horse and Pony Club.

“My wife went off picking up horses from other places that were right in the line of fire,” he said.

Ms Caddies was still getting messages at 3am on Tuesday, with people asking if they could get help with evacuating their horses.

One property had 23 horses that needed to be moved quickly on Tuesday morning.

“It’s quite confronting,” Mr Caddies said.

“Even up in the hills where the fires actually went through quite quickly, our friends were already messaging us saying ‘it’s coming towards us. And then boom, it burnt down our sheds and went through and burnt all our fences’.”

Karrie Louden lives nearby in Upper Swan, where there is an active emergency warning. She chose to stay and defend her property from the fires, as she has always done.

Mr Louden filmed two videos (see below) showing a firefighting helicopter collecting dam water to drop on the fires.

“It is obviously a much bigger fire than any we have experienced in the past and we could see the fire crews were exhausted but they got in and did what needed to be done,” she said.

-with AAP

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