Desperate residents are evacuating from communities south of Perth, with some ferried out by boat, as a massive out of control bushfire threatens lives and homes.
Residents of Harvey are now being urged to evacuate immediately as a wind change forces flames south towards the small South West town.
An bushfire emergency warning had earlier been issued for the towns of Waroona and Preston Beach as residents make a desperate bid for safety from the fast-moving blaze.
People in Harvey and surrounding areas are being advised by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to leave in a westerly direction along Udoc and Forestry roads, then south along Forrest Highway.
Aerial water bombers, at least 20 firefighting trucks from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) and 40 appliances from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) are being used to fight the blaze.
More than 100 residents have flooded into evacuation centres set up in the nearby town of Pinjarra, while some have fled to the beach and been ferried out by boat, as the fire shuts major roads.
The fire front is moving fast, in a westerly direction, and an emergency warning is in place for the area bounded by Willowdale Road, Johnston Road, Forrest Highway, Dorsett Road, Williamson Road, Mayfield Road and Nanga Brook Road, including the Waroona town site, in the Shire of Waroona.
People west of the South Western Highway are being told to leave in a westerly direction if it is safe to do so.
For people east of the South Western Highway, and those in Preston Beach, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services has said it is too late to leave.
Those residents are urged to shelter in their homes and actively defend them, or if unable to do so they should shelter at the beach.
The warning also applies to the Alcoa mine site and nearby properties.
Waroona is home to about 2,500 people.
DPAW spokesman Benson Todd said the fire was started by a lightning strike on Tuesday morning at Lane Pool Reserve near Dwellingup, 50 kilometres north-east of Waroona.
He said strong winds of 40 to 60 kilometres an hour had fanned the fire and pushed it towards Waroona.
An evacuation centre has been set up in the nearby town of Pinjarra, at the Murray Leisure Centre.
Mr Benson said the decision to evacuate the towns was taken when embers started dropping in the streets.
He said there had been some unconfirmed reports that the fire has destroyed some buildings, but authorities had not been able to verify them at this stage.
There is a watch and act warning in place for people in an area bounded by Johnston Road, Willowdale Road, Forrest Highway, Riverdale Road and Logue Brook Dam and Clark Road to Nanga Road.
People are being urged to leave if the way is clear.
Hot, blustery conditions spark fears for cut off communities
Weather conditions will be extremely hot and humid in the region today, with a top of 39C predicted for Pinjarra, which may hamper the efforts of firefighters.
Winds will be up to 40 kilometres an hour, while the fire risk for the west inland region is very high.
Western Power said electricity has been cut to 1,500 homes, amid unconfirmed reports hundreds of power poles have been destroyed.
Local MP Murray Cowper said infrastructure has been damaged, including a bridge on the South Western Highway near Hamel.
Mr Cowper said there are concerns for people at Preston Bridge.
“The geography of Preston Beach, the only real way they’ve got to escape is to go into the ocean,” he said.
“At this stage I understand the fire is some way away from Preston Beach but with the conditions we’re staying alert.”
Mr Cowper said the community is rallying to support each other.
“It’s going to be a very tough day and all hands are on deck, and you might be aware the communities through here are accustomed to fires,” he said.