Firefighters contain Australian blaze with rain forecast

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian firefighters have managed to contain a bush fire burning near Perth, authorities said Saturday (Feb 6), allowing them to downgrade the blaze which has destroyed 86 homes.

Despite another night battling the fire amid strong winds on the fringes of Australia’s fourth-biggest city, crews managed to hold the blaze back and reduced the emergency warning to a watch-and-act alert ahead of forecast rains.

“I am really happy to report that the Wooroloo fire is now 100 per cent contained,” Western Australia state fire commissioner Darren Klemm told media.

But Mr Klemm warned that the blaze was still burning inside containment lines and winds up to 60kmh were also expected.

Preparations were now underway to allow evacuated residents to return home including to the hard-hit suburb of Tilden Park – where an estimated 80 per cent of properties were lost.

“This is a great outcome, and it gives those residents of those terribly affected areas, particularly around Tilden Park, access back,” Mr Klemm said.

Seven firefighters have sustained minor injuries, but no deaths have been reported in the bush fire, which has scorched more than 10,000ha since it was sparked Monday.

It comes about a year after Australia was hit by unprecedented climate change-fuelled bush fires that devastated whole communities and killed billions of animals.

More than 3.5 million hectares were burned across Western Australia during 2019-2020, but the state was largely spared the loss of properties and lives seen in the country’s more densely populated south-east.

Scientists say fires are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, with people living in urban-bushland areas like the Perth Hills especially vulnerable to the impact of blazes.

As recovery efforts continued returning residents were told to be wary of falling trees downed by strong winds.

“I really want to stress that, those homeowners that have lost their homes, you know, we’re here for the long haul,” Mr Klemm said.

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The bush fire hit a population that had just been forced into a snap lockdown after a rare coronavirus case was detected in a man working in a quarantine hotel for arriving international travellers.

About two million people in and around Perth fell under the stay-at-home orders which ended on Friday night.

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