Emergency warning for bushfire in Forrestdale, south of Perth, as homes, schools threatened
Bushfire flares in Forrestdale, south of Perth (ABC News)
Authorities have expanded an emergency warning area triggered by a rapidly spreading bushfire in the city of Armadale, in Perth's south, which is being fanned by strong easterly winds.
The warning covers people in an area bounded by Nicholson Road, Harrisdale Drive, Wright Road, Ranford Road, Tonkin Highway and Armadale Road in the suburbs of Forrestdale, Harrisdale and Piara Waters.
Houses north of Armadale Road and south east of Anstey Road in Forrestdale are currently in danger from the blaze, which started near the intersection of Forrest Road and Tonkin Highway.
A watch and act warning has also been issued for people in nearby suburbs of Piara Waters, Harrisdale and Banjup.
Reports of two properties damaged
DFES incident controller Peter Sutton said it was possible some properties had been damaged by the fire.
"At this stage we have unconfirmed reports of two properties damaged," he said.
"We have teams from our rapid damage assessment area coming to assess those properties … we do have some minor damage to Western Power infrastructure as well.
"At the moment the situation is still serious. As you can see we still have south-easterly winds and the winds will increase.
"Although the temperature will decrease overnight, the fuel loads and the area of the fire is of a real concern to us, so we ask people to stay out of the area."
He urged people to take all necessary steps to protect themselves.
"We do have concerns the fire is entering an area of high fuel loads and we ask people to heed these warnings," he said.
"Go to the Emergency WA website and see whether you are in the area and take precautions as necessary.
"Please put your bushfire emergency plan in to place nice and early and if you are not prepared to stay and defend leave now."
Several schools within emergency zone
Forrestdale Primary School is in Broome Street and students and staff were evacuated earlier this afternoon.
The emergency fire warning area now also takes in Harrisdale Primary School, Harrisdale Senior High School and Carey Baptist College in Harrisdale, but all the schools are now closed for the day.
Earlier on Thursday, a DFES spokeswoman said Harrisdale Senior High School was "putting its bushfire evacuation plan in place".
"All the kids are safe and the smoke has not impacted on them," she said.
The students were transported to Neerigen Brook Primary School in neighbouring Brookdale, from where parents were able to pick them up.
Another school, Piara Waters Primary School, is located within the watch and act zone.
High temperatures, strong winds fan flames
The DFES spokeswoman said the fast-moving fire was being fanned by hot easterly winds.
Yesterday fire authorities warned Perth residents to be prepared for bushfires amid a five-day run of temperatures above 35 degrees that began on Wednesday.
"The winds are a real concern for us at the moment, and they're pushing the fire in a north-westerly direction," she said.
No relief from the wind conditions was expected for 24 hours and firefighters had been put on rolling rosters.
"The fire has jumped over Tonkin Highway southeast of Forrest Road and we are unable to stop it," she said.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning, saying strong gusts — which could reach up to 90 kilometres per hour —were possible on Thursday night and into Friday morning, further hampering firefighting efforts.
It said easterly winds of that strength generally occurred only once every two to three years, and could cause damage to homes and property, most likely over the hills and foothills.
Neighbouring areas warned, roads closed
The watch and act warning is for people in an area bounded by Armadale Road, Tonkin Highway, Rowley Road, Nicholson Road, Gibbs Road, Liddelow Road, Fraser Road and Ranford Road in Banjup, Forrestdale, Harrisdale and Piara Waters.
Gibbs Road, Nicholson Road, Harrisdale Road, Wright Road, Ranford Road, out to Candeloro Road, Fraser Road, Armadale Road and Liddelow Road in the suburbs of Banjup, Forrestdale, Harrisdale and Piara Waters.
Residents in those areas are being warned to leave or be prepared to actively defend their property.
Tonkin Highway is closed in both directions from Rowley Road to Randford Road in Forrestdale, as is Forrest Road, Armadale Road eastbound and Anstey Road, and motorists have been advised to avoid the area.
The watch and act zone also contains Hakea maximum security prison and the Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre.
About 56 fire appliances and 120 career and volunteer firefighters are at the scene, and air tankers, water bombers and helicopters are also dumping water on the fires.
Flames threatening homes
DFES district officer Allen Gale said conditions were blustery and the fire was headed towards Harrisdale.
"The smoke is a key hazard at present [and] there has been quite a bit of flame around the Tonkin Highway," Mr Gale said.
He said the area under emergency warning was semi-rural with large blocks of land, and police had released horses that were in paddocks in the area because they were in the line of the fires.
"We can't hold the fire up there at Armadale Road, and furthermore if it does break through and get to Anstey Road, people need to be making their plans for what they're going to do," Mr Gale said.
"That fire is actually lapping some of those homes and that's why the firefighters' focus is on that area.
"That's where the incident team here are directing the aerial resources as well as the water bombing.
"There's still more firefighters arriving from neighbouring areas as well."
Mr Gale said the extent of damage to the area was not clear.
The affected area is adjacent to the Armadale Golf Club and Forrestdale Lake Nature Reserve.
The DFES spokeswoman said a community evacuation centre had been set up by the Department for Child Protection and Family Support at the Armadale Arena, but it was not known how many residents had left their homes.
The fire was reported shortly after midday.