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Homes burnt as towering flames prove unstoppable
Homes burnt as towering flames prove unstoppable

UPDATE: People who start fires should be classed as "urban terrorists", WA's emergency services minister said today as authorities investigate whether Perth's latest bushfire was lit deliberately.

At least six homes are confirmed as partially damaged while fences and sheds have been lost in the Banjup bushfire.

Firefighters worked through the night to save homes in Perth's southern suburbs and have the blaze contained and controlled, but were worried about conditions later in the day.

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The blaze has already burnt 500ha.

More than 50 affected residents of Aubin Grove, Atwell and Banjup attended a community meeting in Armadale this morning.

At another community meeting at Atwell Community Centre this afternoon, residents were told they would be allowed back into their homes at the conclusion of the meeting.

"Hundreds of properties have been saved ... due to the unrelenting commitment of the firefighters," he said.

Having played a part in the fire response as part of a volunteer fire brigade, Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said suggestions the fire was suspicious were horrifying.

"This is akin to urban terrorism, and people live their lives in fear and have to panic when these massive fires come towards them," Mr Francis said.

"When someone deliberately lights a fire it is just one of the lowest acts you can do.

"People have not lost their houses in Banjup yet, but some people have lost pets."

Allan Riley from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services told the crowd this morning that no properties were lost in the blaze but there were some close calls.

Mr Riley said this morning that it was still not safe to allow residents back into the most affected areas, acknowledging this would cause inconvenience and angst.

"Please remain patient ... there’s still trees out there that might fall down," Mr Riley said.

"There are still a few hot spots in the area.

“The gusty winds are going to continue throughout the day so that does present some hazards."

Firefighters prepared for today's strong winds and high temperatures.

A Watch and Act remains in place for Banjup, Aubin Grove and Atwell.

The blaze was a flare-up of a fire that started just before midnight on Sunday between Taylor and Nicholson roads in Banjup.

State MPs Joe Francis, Fran Logan and Margaret Quirk attended this morning’s meeting.

Federal Fremantle MP Melissa Parke was also in the crowd.

Mr Francis said he had unconfirmed reports of a property that lost several horses in the blaze.

Fire surrounds a home on Gibbs Road. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

A spokesman for the Department of Child Protection said 12 people spent the night at the makeshift evacuation centre at Armadale Arena.

The evacuation centre was relocated today to the Atwell Recreation Centre on Lombe Avenue.

A department spokesman said the centre would remain open until all affected residents returned home.

Road closures include Gibbs Road and Tapper Road in Aubin Grove, Kurrajong Approach and Sedge Link in Atwell, Gibbs Road between Pacific Avenue and Nicholson Road Atwell and Aubin Grove, Tapper Road at Bartram Road, Sedge Link and Beenyup Road in Banjup and Atwell, Beenyup Road at Gaebler Road in Aubin Grove and Banjup, Liddelow Road between Bartram Road and Wolfe Road in Banjup, and Taylor Road between Oxley Road and Armadale Road in Forrestdale.

Western Power said about 110 homes are without power and some may remain off overnight.

Nearly 40 power poles were damaged in the fire and will need to be replaced.

More than 240 career and volunteer Fire and Rescue Service, Bush Fire Service and Department of Parks and Wildlife firefighters remain at the scene.

Firefighters are strengthening containment lines and blacking out, a DFES spokesperson said.

Worried homeowners watch on at Atwell. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

"Urban Search and Rescue Damage Assessment Teams are on the scene," the spokesperson said.

"DFES State Emergency Service, WA Police, Red Cross, local government and St Johns Ambulance and the Department of Child Protection and Family Support are also on the scene.

"An aerial intelligence helicopter is continuing surveillance of the fire ground."

Atwell resident Steve Cain said the fire had destroyed an air-conditioning unit just a few doors down from his Tapper Road home.

The father of two said his family spent last night at a friend’s house and were yet to hear if their property had been damaged.

"We didn’t sleep last night," Mr Cain said.

"Our house is directly opposite the bushland where the fire was burning so we just don’t know."

Banjup resident Tracey Dono said the fire burnt through all the fences on her parents’ property at Beenyup Road.

She said she hadn’t yet been able to return to check if there was more damage.

"My parents are away so it’s been a hard 24 hours," Mrs Dono said.

While clutching her Jack Russell dog at this morning’s meeting, Aubin Grove resident Jess Walters said she was confident her home on Monticola Gardens had escaped damage.

The meeting was shown an aerial view of the fire ground this morning but DFES could not provide exact locations of properties affected or damaged.

Homeowners watched as flames higher than rooftops swept through the area and wind gusts sent blazing debris hundreds of metres ahead of the fire front yesterday.

More than 200 career and volunteer firefighters from across Perth and outlying areas fought the blaze last night. Aerial support returned to the firefront this morning.

Pam and Paul Maes were forced to leave their Banjup home when the flames moved closer to their property.

"The fire was 300m away and we were told we had to go," Mrs Maes said.

Despite flames lapping the Gibbs Road property, firefighters managed to save the home.

The property's cubbyhouse was the only major asset lost.

Aerial support fills up at Banjup yesterday. Picture: Tristan MacDonald

Mrs Maes praised the efforts of firefighters who faced flames as high as 20m.

"I am in awe of what they've done," she said.

"I stayed down the road a little bit as everything just went up.

"It looked like the whole street was on fire. When it jumped the road I was quite scared."

Mrs Maes called the firefighters big-time heroes.

"They put their lives on the line every time there's a fire," she said.

DFES spokeswoman Kathy Nastov said all available resources were deployed to the fire.

Yesterday afternoon Kwinana Freeway was at a standstill. There were angry scenes at several roadblocks as residents argued with police when they were told they may not be allowed back into their homes last night.

Many attempted to plead with officers to let them back in to at least rescue their unattended animals.

The area is popular for horse breeders, trainers and owners and animal evacuations were front of mind for many residents.

Rooftop vantage point in Atwell. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Forrestdale resident Kym Geneve made two trips into the fire zone to help rescue horses with her float.

She said residents flagged her down, desperate for help to get their horses out.

A relocation centre was set up at Armadale Arena for people who could not go home.

Bushfire on Taylor Road in Banjup. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian
Firefigthers battle the blaze in Atwell. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

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