(Reuters) – Western Australian officials warned on Saturday of forecast “extreme to catastrophic fire conditions” as a large bushfire burned out of control in the west of the country, forcing families to flee their homes.
More than 2,300 hectares (8.9 square miles) have burnt over the past couple of days just west of the tourist town of Denmark, some 420 kilometres (261 miles) south of Perth, on Western Australia’s south coast, fuelled by gusty winds and high temperatures.
“Severe heatwave conditions and extreme to catastrophic fire dangers are forecast … on Sunday,” the Bureau of Meteorology in Western Australia state said on Twitter.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan urged people in risk areas to follow the emergency service’s advice, which calls for people to evacuate if the way is clear. Residents have been told not to return home.
“It is important to remind everyone to keep safe,” McGowan told a briefing.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) national broadcaster reported on Saturday that several families have already fled their homes.
Bushfires are an intrinsic part of Australia’s warmer months, thanks to high temperatures, dry conditions and the combustible nature of many native plants.
In the summer of 2019-2020, 33 people were killed, including nine firefighters, when wildfires burned more than 17 million hectares (65,630 square miles), an area nearly half the size of Germany.
(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; editing by Jane Wardell)
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