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Bushfire warning downgraded for fire in Perth's south

By Keane Bourke and staff, Sunday January 17, 2021 - 16:14 EDT
ABC licensed image
Firefighters tackled the Oakford fire in "very trying" conditions overnight. - ABC licensed

A bushfire in Perth's southern suburbs that destroyed at least one home on Saturday has been downgraded to a watch and act warning, with firefighters describing conditions on the fire ground as "very trying".

About 150 firefighters spent the night battling the blaze, which started on Saturday morning near a nature reserve in Oakford, and has so far burnt about 300 hectares.

The fire has been contained and the intensity of the blaze has reduced, although firefighters say residents must remain alert as conditions could change quickly.

A watch and act warning is in place for people in an area bounded by Anketell Road, Kwinana Freeway, Mortimer Road, King Road and Thomas Road in parts of Anketell, Oakford, Oldbury, and Casuarina in the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale and the City of Kwinana.

Kwinana Freeway remains closed in both directions between Mortimer Road and Rowley Road, with other major road closures in the area.

Motorists are advised to drive carefully due to smoke and avoid the area if possible.

While thousands of homes had been without electricity on Saturday afternoon, Western Power reported that number had dropped to 239 overnight.

Parts of Casuarina, Oakford, Anketell, The Spectacles and Oldbury remain without power.

Services on the Mandurah train line have been restored, after being cancelled between Cockburn Central and Rockingham stations.

In a tweet on Saturday night, the Department of Justice said the fire did not pose a threat to WA's main maximum-security jail, Casuarina Prison.

However, the Department confirmed on Sunday that all social visits at the prison had been cancelled.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) was unable to confirm any property losses on Saturday, but a house could be seen burning.

It is not known if the property was occupied before the fire started on Saturday.

There have been no reports of injuries.

Evacuation centres at Serpentine-Jarrahdale Recreation Centre, in Byford, and Kwinana Recquatic in Kwinana have now closed.

Fire authority says arson squad investigating

DFES incident controller Peter Sutton said while the fire had been contained, conditions were still challenging for the 150 firefighters on the ground.

"We do have significant concerns on the southern boundary of this fire, so that is our priority today," Mr Sutton said.

"We're continually moving resources and just having [plans] in place in case the fire breaks the southern containment line."

Mr Sutton said initial investigations indicated the fire may have been intentionally lit.

"The arson squad have looked at the area," he said.

"They can't find a cause ? so the leaning then is towards suspicious."

Mr Sutton said while authorities were working to reopen a section of the Kwinana Freeway that had been closed since Saturday afternoon, the blaze was likely to remain as a watch-and-act until tomorrow.

"The conditions are still very trying and hopefully by tomorrow morning we can reassess what the warning areas are," he said.

Gusty afternoon winds a threat

The Bureau of Meteorology said gusty easterly winds had continued throughout the night, reaching about 50 kilometres per hour.

The bureau's duty forecaster, Luke Huntington, said conditions were not expected to ease significantly until the afternoon.

"It's probably going to be at its gustiest this morning," Mr Huntington said.

"It'll probably ease right off by the afternoon period, we'll probably see those wind gusts go right down to only 25 to 30 kilometres an hour.

"But they will probably increase once again later this evening and probably swing around to more of a north-easterly direction."

Mr Huntington said the area around the fire was forecast to reach a maximum of 35 degrees late in the afternoon.


© ABC 2021

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