PERTH, Australia (AP) — An out-of-control wildfire burning northeast of the Australian west coast city of Perth has destroyed at least 59 homes and was threatening more Tuesday, with many residents across the region told it is too late to leave.
The 7,000-hectare (17,000-acre) blaze, which has a 80-kilometer (50-mile) perimeter, began on Monday and raged through the night near the town of Wooroloo, with the shires of Mundaring, Chittering, Northam, and the city of Swan affected.
“Firefighters have done a remarkable job in some of the most challenging conditions that we’ve experienced in the metropolitan region for some time,” Western Australia state Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said.
“Tragically, 59 properties have been lost in this fire and that number may increase as we continue to assess the extent of the damage,” Klemm added.
Roads out of semi-rural suburb The Vines on Perth’s northern outskirts were bumper-to-bumper with traffic, making some people choose to stay.
Melissa Stahl, 49, heeded a text telling her to evacuate.
“I could smell the fire and went out the back and the whole yard was filled with smoke,” she said. “We grabbed bedding, photos, the two kids and the dog and got out of there.”
A warning to other threatened areas told people to leave if they are not prepared to fight the blaze. The bushfire is unpredictable and weather conditions are rapidly changing, the warning said, urging people to stay vigilant.
The cause of the blaze was unknown.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent Peter Sutton said about 250 firefighters had been battling the erratic fire.
“It has made it very hard, near on impossible … to suppress this fire,” Sutton said.