Residents of the Shady Hills Estate and east Bullsbrook, north-east of Perth, were told to evacuate on Wednesday as the worrying Woroloo fire threatened their area.
Earlier, authorities dramatically expanded bushfire advice for the blaze as firefighters rushed to get ahead of a worrying wind change.
With more than 70 homes already confirmed lost to the out-of-control fire that now covers 9000 hectares, authorities remain concerned a looming change in the weather will bring even more danger.
Western Australia’s Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said large tankers and fixed-wing bombers had been targeting the area but the fire posed a risk to lives and homes near the RAAF Base Pearce in Perth’s north-east.
“That north-west corner of the fire is extremely difficult to control, in incredibly steep terrain,” the Commissioner said.
“We’re unable to get earth moving equipment in there.”
Premier Mark McGowan said WA was enduring an unprecedented crisis.
“We’re facing disasters on two fronts – the devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, referring to the five-day lockdown for metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West.
“A full lockdown and raging bushfires. It’s frightening and it will test us all.
“The fire has devastated our community. We know that 71 homes have been lost. That number is expected to rise.”
Mr Klemm said people in the Bullsbrook and Shady Hills Estate areas neded to enact their bushfire plans.
“We’re going to see gusts to 70 kilometres an hour in that north-west corner of the fire there,” he said earlier.
“We’re into day three of this fire today and it’s going to continue to be a challenging fire for us for at least the next three or four or five days.”
In Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the efforts of the hundreds of firefighters targeting the blaze, as well as the Red Cross and other volunteers who were staffing evacuation centres.
“Thankfully, at this point, no lives have been lost and no one is believed to be unaccounted for. And for that, we are deeply grateful,” he said.
“There is danger still ahead as we speak and an emergency warning remains in place as the bushfire continues to move rapidly. Adverse weather and hot temperatures and gusty winds is forecast to continue.”
Evacuation centres have been set up at the Brown Park Recreation Complex in Swan View, Swan Active in Midland and Swan Active in Beechboro.
In Perth, as the wind change hit early on Wednesday, the skies cleared. On Tuesday, smoke had blanketed the city, with ash falling as far as 40 kilometres away from the fire in suburban Sorrento.
Hay producer Sharron Price said earlier she planned to stay and defend her Bullsbrook property, about five kilometres west of the fire front.
“We’re still potentially in danger. We’ve got a yard full of hay rolls, so we’re a bit nervous,” she said.
Stewart Brisbane, who lives in nearby Rosa Park, said he had seen flames shooting across the sky on Tuesday.
“But everything is looking good at the moment,” he said.
Mr Klemm said weather conditions on Perth’s outskirts might not improve until the weekend, with the potential of rain on Sunday. In the meantime, the area would endure warm weather with strong winds and low humidity.
He said those obliged to quarantine due to WA’s COVID-19 outbreak were permitted to leave their homes.
Mr Klemm wouldn’t speculate on reports the fire was started in Wooroloo by residents playing with illegal fireworks in a shed where there was a meth lab, saying police were still investigating.
“I’ve heard the same thing. I understand the fire did start close to a home,” he said
“In terms of what caused it, we’re not in a position to say that yet.”
Crews had faced “a difficult and incredibly fast-moving” blaze that was spotting 3.5 kilometres ahead of the fire front at its peak on Monday night.
People in a 25-kilometre arc of land stretching west from Wooroloo to the rural suburbs of The Vines and Brigadoon in Perth’s north-east have been told it is too late to leave.
“You need to shelter in your home in a room away from the fire front and make sure you can easily escape,” the latest warning says.
Residents of suburbs and towns including Ellenbrook, Gidgegannup, Upper Swan, Herne Hill and Bullsbrook have been warned conditions remain volatile and they should be prepared to defend their homes or leave.