A devastating bushfire burning north-east of Perth has been downgraded to a watch and act warning, as firefighters contained most of the blaze overnight.
WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) reported that 95 per cent of the fire was contained early this morning, but said the blaze remained uncontrolled in the vicinity of Clenton Road, O’Brien Road, Ewing Road and Walyunga National Park near the lookout.
It comes as firefighters spent a fifth night battling the blaze, which destroyed 86 homes and burned through almost 11,000 hectares of land.
DFES deputy commissioner Craig Waters said it was a great effort from fire crews overnight.
“They’ve done a fantastic job,” he told ABC Radio.
“They had a number of flare ups that they had to deal with and obviously the strong easterly winds throughout the night, gusting up to 80 kilometres an hour.
“It was just a fantastic effort in keeping the fire contained to the fire area.”
However, he said the situation may change quickly.
“[We’re] just asking the community to be aware and maintain some situational awareness, as conditions may change at any moment.”
Rain a boost for firefighters
The watch and act alert is in place for people in parts of Avon Valley National Park, Brigadoon, Bullsbrook, Gidgegannup, Upper Swan and Walyunga National Park in the City of Swan.
The fire is largely contained and controlled except for a small area south of Clenton Road.
Deputy commissioner Waters said forecast rain over the weekend would bring some relief.
“The rain is just good news all around,” he said.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of fatigued firefighters [who] have been working since the early stages of this fire so it will be a [relief to them].”
However, Mr Waters said the weather conditions were still concerning.
“The issue for us is any gusty winds preceding that onset of rainfall could put pressure on some of the flare up areas,” he said.
“We sent a line scanner over the incident this morning which identified significant hotspots contained within the fire area, so the crews still have significant work to do to mop up this fire.”
Hotspots a concern amid gusty winds
DFES incident controller John Newman said people should remain vigilant.
“What we’re mindful of now is the number of hotspots within the fire area that have been picked up, so with the forecast winds today, we’re going to require a lot of vigilance on the fire perimeter to make sure we don’t have any more breakouts,” he said.
Residents in areas east of Toodyay Road were granted access to their properties on Friday afternoon as local roads were reopened.
Mr Waters said the department would aim to issue permits for further residents to return today.
“We’re starting to commence our Restricted Access Permits from today to some areas west of Toodyay Road, but that won’t be the entire fire ground,” he said.
“There’s still some trees and other hazards like asbestos and burning embers still in some of the areas, so we need to make sure it’s safe for the community to return.”
Around 480 homes and businesses have been left without power, with significant damage caused to the electricity network in the bushfire area.
Western Power has warned it could take weeks for the network to be rebuilt.
Several roads have been reopened, including the Great Northern Highway and Chittering Road in both directions between Great Northern Highway and Wilson Road.
Motorists are advised to avoid the area, reduce speed and drive carefully.