Two killed in Waroona Bushfire in Western Australia

The BBC reports that two people have been found dead in a very large bushfire south of Perth in Southwestern Australia. Police say the bodies of two men in their 70s were discovered in the debris of burnt-out houses in the town of Yarloop. Most of the structures in the town were destroyed when the Waroona Bushfire, pushed by strong winds, raged through the community.

The blaze continues to spread and threaten populated areas, but less intensely now, with less extreme weather conditions. An emergency warning was issued at 10:51 a.m. local time on January 9 for the following locations: Hamel, Cookernup, Yarloop, Harvey, east of Waroona and the surrounding areas. It doesn’t include the Waroona townsite.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services reports that the fire has consumed 70,876 hectares (175,000 acres) and 143 homes and outbuildings. It is being fought by 250 firefighters, 50 appliances including 38 heavy machines, air tankers, and helicopters. The fire perimeter is more than 140 miles.

(Click on the videos at the top and bottom of this article in order to view them.)

Waroona Fire emergency warning
The red icon represents the general location of the Emergency Warning due to the Waroona Bushfire in Western Australia.

 

Australia bushfire
Photo by @Nietzscheanac

At least 95 homes destroyed in Western Australia bushfire

Most of the homes in the Western Australia town of Yarloop were destroyed when a large bushfire marched through the area Thursday night.

Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson said on Friday that 95 houses and numerous other public buildings burned, including the Steam Museum, the hotel, post office, town hall, and most of the school. There are no reports of fatalities.

The people that did not evacuate said many homes could have been saved but no water was available. The electrical power went out, which made it impossible to refill the town’s water tanks.

The remaining residents in Yarloop were going to evacuate to Pinjarra in a convoy of 30 vehicles protected on the journey by fire engines.

The latest community threatened by the Waroona Fire is the Harvey townsite, where the fire is 5 km northeast of the town and is moving toward the southwest. The effects of moderating weather have slowed the spread.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services reports that the fire has consumed 67,000 hectares (165,000 acres) and 121 homes, and is being fought by 250 firefighters, 50 appliances, air tankers, and helicopters. The fire perimeter is more than 138 miles.

The lightning caused fire was reported at 7:25 a.m. on January 6. It is being managed by an interagency Incident Management Team comprised of DFES, Parks and Wildlife, and local government personnel.

Massive bushfire in Western Australia causes evacuations, some by boat

Waroona Fire Keeley_rg
A pyrocumulus cloud over the Waroona Fire in Western Australia. Photo by Keeley_rg

A 31,000 hectare (76,600 acre) bushfire has forced the evacuation of several communities south of Perth in Western Australia. The fire is moving in a southwesterly direction through the areas of Waroona, Harvey, Lake Clifton, Yarloop, and Preston Beach. (map)

On Friday the forecast includes 60 km/hr (37 mph) winds out of the northeast.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned that for several areas it was too late for residents to leave and they should shelter in their homes. Some people in Preston Beach waded into the Indian Ocean where they were taken on board boats.

Evacuees on boat
Evacuees depart on a boat as a bushfire threatens the Preston Beach area south of Perth in Western Australia. Photo by Footprints Preston Beach Resort.

The DFES reported that the fire, unofficially called the Waroona Fire, is being fought by over 200 firefighters, 48 appliances, and 25 heavy machines. Air tankers and helicopters have also been assigned.

DFES Incident Controller Greg Mair said the South Western Highway could be closed for a few weeks because a wooden bridge at Samson Brook had sustained severe damage.

The lightning caused fire was reported at 7:25 a.m. on January 6. In the area where it crossed Forrest Highway there was a report that the flame height was 50 meters (164 feet).

At least four dead in Western Australia fire

Police in Western Australia have confirmed that four people have been killed in a vegetation fire in Western Australia on the south coast near Esperance. It is feared that two more may have also died.

From ABC.net:

…Fire and Emergency Services Regional Superintendent Trevor Tasker said the blaze at Salmon Gums was the worst he had ever seen.

“The wind and weather conditions … there was no stopping it,” he said.

Two of those killed are believed to be a farmer and one of his workers from Salmon Gums.

Superintendent Tasker said they are thought to have they crashed a car while trying to flee their farm.

“We believe that may be the case, but we really can’t say for sure,” he said.

There are four fires burning in the region, but the two most serious are at Grass Patch and Salmon Gums, 100 kilometres north of Esperance and at Stockyard Creek, 25 kilometres east of the town…

Fire Aviation has an article posted today about large air tankers from North America being deployed to Australia for their 2015/2016 summer bushfire season.

NSW sends 150 firefighters to assist in Western Australia

Firefighters at Sydney airport

This photo was posted at about 3 p.m. MST, February 2 (U.S. time) on the Facebook page for Shane Fitzsimmons, the Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia. The firefighters from New South Wales are flying to Western Australia for five days to help with the large fires currently burning there. The latest report is that  80,500 hectares (197,000 acres) have been burnt in the blaze near Northcliffe.

Here is how the above photo was described:

Nice to catch up with our interstate fire fighting assistance team at Sydney Airport this morning, flying out to assist their colleagues in WA. 150 fire fighters and management specialists will be in WA for next 5 days and returning home Friday. The team incorporates members from NSW RFS, FR, NPWS, Forestry and Ambulance and are partnered with their ACT colleagues. Thanks again to all involved.

A day earlier, Commissiner Fitzsimmons wrote:

NSW RFS State Operations is currently coordinating the deployment of approximately 170 Fire Fighters, Incident Management and Specialist personnel to assist colleagues in Western Australia. This team will consist of personnel from NSW (NSWRFS, FRNSW, NPWS, FCNSW & ASNSW) as well as the ACT and NT. In addition to this request received last night, we have also provided an Air Crane, 16 tonnes of foam and 44 tonnes of retardant in recent days. Thanks everyone for offering to assist, our interstate colleagues certainly appreciate it. For latest information on WA bush fires follow this link
http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/alerts/Pages/default.aspx

Western Australia bushfire burns 143,000 acres

Satellite photo of two fires in Western Australia. The southern most one is near Northcliffe. Photo at 10:30 UTC, February 4, 2015. SSEC.
Satellite photo of two fires in Western Australia. The southern most one is near Northcliffe. Photo at 10:30 UTC, February 4, 2015. SSEC. (click to enlarge)

Below is an excerpt from an article at http://www.news.com.au/:

FIREFIGHTERS have been working around the clock for the past five days to protect lives and homes from the Northcliffe bushfire.

But despite their best efforts, the blaze has doubled since Tuesday night and has destroyed more than 58,000 hectares [143,000 acres].

Residents in Northcliffe and the subdivisions of Parkview, Bracken Rise and Double Bridge in the Shire Manjimup have been told their town sites are “undefendable” and they must leave, advice that most have heeded.

For people in Windy Harbour, it’s too late to leave. They’ve been told to seek shelter at the beach. A Department of Fire and Emergency spokesman said people at Windy Harbour might have to leave by boat or helicopter.

The blaze is frequently changing direction because of wind changes.

“It has been swinging around a lot,” one of the 40 or so people still in Northcliffe, general store manager Graham Munro, told Fairfax radio.

“The wind is blowing away from the town at the moment, so it’s pretty good, but there’s still ash around.

“Yesterday for a while it was heading straight at the town … across land that had previously been burnt, but then of course it swung around took off like a rocket for the coast again.”