A bushfire raging outside the Western Australian city of Perth has forced nearby residents to evacuate as the city remains in a coronavirus lockdown. Authorities said they believed at least 30 homes have been destroyed in the blaze north of the city, which has so far scorched over 7,000 hectares.
Stronger winds and a run of hot days have fuelled the fire, Perth is enduring 35C (95F) temperatures, western Australia’s Premier said the state was facing dual emergencies. “Right now WA is battling two different kinds of emergencies – a dangerous fire emergency and a Covid-19 lockdown emergency,” said Mark McGowan. He called the city’s situation “extremely concerning and serious”. The state capital city of two million people is in a snap lockdown until Friday.
The state government enacted the aggressive public health measure on Sunday after the city detected its first local infections in 10 months in a hotel quarantine guard who was also a ride-share driver. On Tuesday, Perth residents woke up to a blanket of smoke as the fire raced through the hilly, dry bush on the city’s fringes overnight.
Mr McGowan urged residents who are not in the immediate fire danger vicinity to remain at home to reduce the risk of the virus’ spread. No new cases have been reported and state authorities had tracked down 150 close contacts of the infected person, he said. However, in the suburbs on Tuesday, residents reported that ash was falling from the sky in locations at least 50km (31 miles) away from the fire-front. “Lockdown and now ash falling in my front and backyard courtesy of bush fires nearby… Mask is a double protector in this environment!” wrote one man on Twitter.
The mayor of Swan, a small town north west of the city said the “very aggressive” fire had burst through to the flat plains outside the city overnight. Mayor Kevin Bailey said dozens of people had fled to an emergency evacuation centre, while others had sought shelter at other people’s homes. “Especially with the Covid restrictions on, they’re taking that option. Rather than go into a large crowd, they sought other accommodation,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.