Out-of-control Australia wildfire expected to burn for days
'Weather conditions are extremely volatile,' premier of Western Australia says
More than 70 homes have been lost in a wildfire outside Australia's western city of Perth which is expected to continue burning for days.
The fire had razed more than 9,000 hectares of farm and woodland in hills east of Perth by early Wednesday, authorities said.
Western Australia state's Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the number of houses destroyed had jumped to 71 from 59 overnight, and conditions would remain difficult for firefighters with no rain forecast until Sunday.
"We're into Day 3 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," Klemm said.
Six firefighters sustained minor injuries, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. No other injuries were reported.
'Extremely dangerous fire'
State Premier Mark McGowan said 80 per cent of all properties at Tilden Park near Gidgegannup on Perth's northeast rural fringe have been lost.
McGowan said a large aerial tanker was flying from the Australian east coast to help fight the blaze.
"This is an extremely dangerous fire and a serious situation. Weather conditions are extremely volatile," McGowan said.
"Please do everything you can to keep you and your family safe and look after each other."
People in a 25-kilometre stretch west from Wooroloo to the Walyunga National Park northeast of Perth were told Tuesday it had become too dangerous to leave their homes.
"You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you," the latest warning said.
Roads out of semi-rural suburb The Vines on Perth's northern outskirts were bumper-to-bumper with traffic, making some people choose to stay.
Melissa Stahl, 49, heeded a text telling her to evacuate.
"I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke," she said. "We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there."
Perth and its surrounds had been in lockdown since Sunday as a pandemic precaution, but those threatened by the fire were exempted from the stay-at-home order so they could evacuate the area.
"A lot of people were at home — they weren't at school or work — so they were very fortunate to able to react quickly," Bailey said.
Cause of fire unknown
A warning to other threatened areas told people to leave if they are not prepared to fight the fire. The bushfire is unpredictable and weather conditions are rapidly changing, the warning said, urging people to stay vigilant.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Supt. Peter Sutton said about 250 firefighters had been battling the erratic fire.
"It has made it very hard, near on impossible ... to suppress this fire," Sutton said.
Wildfires are common during the current South Hemisphere summer. However, the season has been mild on Australia's southeast coast, which was devastated by massive fires last summer.