- RACHEL BAXENDALE AND LIAM QUINN
Firefighters battle against the devastating bushfire in Perth’s Hills. Picture: Department of Fire and Emergency Services Source: Supplied
A lady wipes tears from her eyes during a community meeting to advise residents of the fire situation in Perth. Picture: Getty Images Source:Getty Images
AN out-of-control grassfire is threatening lives and property in Melbourne’s northeast this afternoon, with the mercury surpassing 40C across much of southeastern Australia.
An emergency warning has been issued for residents of Kangaroo Ground, 26km northeast of Melbourne, with the CFA advising residents to seek shelter, as it is too late to leave.
A Watch and Act warning has been issued for residents of North Warrandyte.
Local residents say traffic across the nearby Warrandyte Bridge is almost at a standstill as residents attempted to flee the area.
Thirty trucks and five aircraft are on the scene, with emergency alerts sent to 3200 mobile phones and 621 landlines in the Kangaroo Ground area.
Earlier this afternoon a grassfire at Sunbury, 40km northwest of Melbourne, came close to houses and crossed the Calder Freeway before being brought under control.
Police and the CFA are investigating the cause of another grassfire at Little River, between Melbourne and Geelong, which burnt 100ha before about 100 firefighters and two aircraft controlled it early this afternoon.
Total fire bans have been declared in most regions of Victoria, with temperatures predicted to reach the mid 40s today and tops of about 40C forecast for the rest of the working week. The government has issued a heat health alert with people being urged to keep cool and look out for the elderly.
A similar heatwave in January 2009 contributed to 370 deaths in Victoria and boosted metropolitan ambulance call-outs by about 50 per cent on the hottest days, according to the Department of Health.
Emergency services will be pushed to the limit due to the heatwave, but in Perth the news was better as a bushfire in the hills outside the city has been brought under control.
As the five-day heatwave in Australia’s southern states enters its second day, Victoria and South Australia are tipped to endure the worst of the conditions, but NSW and Tasmania will also feel the hot air mass spreading from the west.
South Australia’s five-day heatwave is about to get worse with the latest forecast tipping temperatures to go even higher than initial predictions.
It will challenge records dating back more than 70 years, a senior forecaster says.
Adelaide sweltered through 45C today, just one degree short of its all time high of 46.1C set on January 12, 1939.
The heatwave was also forecast to give the city five consecutive days above 40C, making it the city’s third longest hot spell. In 1908 and 2009, Adelaide recorded six days above 40C, but Bureau of Meteorology acting regional director John Nairn said they both came at a time when Australia was gripped by drought.
“It’s a class act in terms of a heatwave, so it does deserve our attention,” Mr Nairn said.
While Adelaide sizzled, the hottest spot in SA on Tuesday was Keith, in the southeast, where the mercury hit 47.2C while at Pallamana, east of Adelaide, it reached 46.3C and at Lameroo and Port Augusta 46.2C.
In Western Australia, firefighters appear to have won the battle against the raging Perth hills bushfire, as more than 50 families who already knew their homes had been swept away by Sunday’s fierce firestorm were allowed to return the charred ruins for the first time today.
For hundreds of others however, the extent of the damage is still unknown, as they prepare to return to the cold reality of what authorities are calling the “warm zone”.
Firefighters will continue to mop up, as more hot weather is forecast for Perth this weekend.
The fire is being blamed for the death of one man, 62-year-old Ron Shaw, who collapsed as stood on the roof of his Hovea home to prepare for the arrival of the flames.
He could not be reached by ambulance officers and died at the scene.
One resident tried to get back to their house on Monday afternoon and suffered burns to the hands and feet.
Four people who were feared missing in the blaze were accounted for on Monday.
Power remains out for thousands of hills residents, and is not expected to be restored until the weekend. 150 poles and 6km of power line will need to be restored.
It is believed the cause of the fire was a power pole on private property.
The cost of the damage from the devastating WA Perth Hills bushfire has already been placed at more than $13 million, and is almost certain to rise.
The WA government will donate $1 million to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund to help victims.
It will also provide $3000 to those whose homes had been destroyed and $1000 for damaged houses.
Attorney-General George Brandis says the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment will also be provided to eligible residents.
People can claim a payment of $1000 per adult and $400 for each child.
Insurers have declared the fire a catastrophic event.
Meanwhile, police in Adelaide are concerned that an overnight fire at an abandoned house was deliberately lit.
They are treating the Morphett Vale blaze as suspicious and forensic investigators will attempt to determine its cause.
“With total fire bans declared across the state today, this is dangerous and risky behaviour to be engaging in,” a spokesman said.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has urged all people to take care of those most vulnerable to the heat, including elderly relatives, friends and neighbours.
He says people without air-conditioning at home should consider heading to cooler public facilities such as cinemas, shopping centres and libraries.
Sydney will be spared the worst of the weather, with temperatures in the high 20s in the city and high 30s in the city’s west.
A total fire ban has been declared for southern Tasmania today and parts of the state’s south will reach the mid to high 30s during the next few days.