Firefighters battle aggressive flames
Emergency services are trying to contain a fire in the Perth hills that has destroyed at least 27 homes with flames said to be up to 20 metres high. Nine News.PT2M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30prs 620 349 January 13, 2014
Nearly 50 homes have been destroyed and four people are missing in bushfires on Perth's eastern fringes.
Wayne Gregson, the WA fire comissioner, said it was unknown whether the missing people were in an area struck by fire.
"We're hoping that we will find them safe and well," he said.
Perth hills fire devastates community
Fire damaged vehicles are pictured on a Stoneville property in Narla Retreat. Photo: Getty Images
But police searches were hampered on Monday by a widespread power outage which has left about 1000 properties in the fire zone without power.
Weather conditions have improved and the status of the fire was downgraded to "watch and act" after a weekend of what fire fighters described as "catastrophic" conditions.
The blaze claimed a life on Sunday, when a 62-year-old man lost consciousness while standing on the roof of his home and defending it from a fire.
A total of 46 homes were confirmed to have been lost in blazes on the weekend, Mr Gregson said, and that number could rise as more of the fire area was inspected.
Witnesses told Fairfax that flames had reached up to 20 metres high in a fire that had already burned through 650 hectares in the Shire of Mundaring, on Perth's eastern fringe.
"Over 400 residential dwellings were in the front of the fire," Mr Gregson said. "It was unassailable from the front.
"There were 385 firefighters involved and over 100 appliances at the height of the response.
"We dealt with over 200 fires over the weekend and five or six or those were major."
Mr Gregson said an unknown further number of homes had been damaged, as fire fighters had begun to contain but not control fires in the Perth Hills and the suburbs of Parkerville, Stoneville and Mount Helena.
More than 100 people packed into two community centres near Perth on Monday, most of them with one question in mind - do I still have a home? They were told it could be until Wednesday until they were allowed to return and check their properties.
The full scale of the damage was revealed as acting West Australian premier, Kim Hames, announced a $1 milllion contribution towards the fire victims.
Dr Hames said modelling showed that "had the resources that were placed on this fire not immediately been placed on it it could have been 450 houses."
About 275 fire fighters continued to fight the blaze and were now turning their efforts towards blackening spot fires and securing damaged homes.
"They're starting to feel the effects of the time on the fire front," said Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Russell Jones.
Fire fighters said they did not how the fire started.