Embers from much earlier fire sparked big Yanchep bushfire

The Yanchep bushfire on December 11, which burnt about 13,000ha, started in a wetland from embers blown across the road from an earlier fire. Picture: Anita McInnes

A DEPARTMENT of Fire and Emergency Services investigation into the December 11 Yanchep bushfire has recommended the use of thermal imaging cameras in future bushfire operations to check for underground hot spots.

On Monday, May 11 Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Darren Klemm said an investigation into the Yanchep bushfire on December 11 deemed the cause to be accidental due to a tree falling onto high voltage powerlines in Yanchep National Park.

But this did not answer the questions raised on December 24 in Yanchep bushfireuses about 4.7m litres of water where Yanchep News Online reported the bushfire was believed to have originally started sometime in the morning of  December 11 in the S-bends on Wanneroo Rd near the Yanchep Beach Rd intersection and was thought to have been extinguished.

Today the Parks and Wildlife Service – part of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions – told Yanchep News Online the DFES report, which had deemed the fire as accidental had also concluded that strong easterly winds, vehicular movement or a combination of both blew an ember or embers from the initial fire into an unburnt area on the western side of Wanneroo Rd.

The unburnt area on the western side of Wanneroo Rd includes some wetland, which became very noticeable for motorists driving on the road after the bushfire burnt through the area.

PWS said the Yanchep bushfire was first reported to them at 7.23am on December 11.

This was for a fire located 500m south of Yanchep Beach Rd on the eastern side of Wanneroo Rd.

The spokeswoman said three fast attack fire units, a front-end loader and three heavy duty fire trucks were dispatched from the Parks and Wildlife Service’s Yanchep and Wanneroo depots.

“The first fast attack unit arrived on site shortly after the first report and commenced fire suppression,’’ she said.

“All running fire had been extinguished and the fireground secured by 8.15am.

“Parks and Wildlife Service fire crews remained on site until 1.30pm to support Western Power personnel during and after the line clearing process and to ensure that the fire ground was secure.”

The bushfire on the western side of Wanneroo Rd was first reported at 2.16pm and by 3.07pm DFES had put out a bushfire watch and act for Yanchep National Park.

The fire caused by a tree falling onto high voltage powerlines in Yanchep National Park was first reported at 7.23am on December 11. Picture: Anita McInnes

About an hour later at 4.14pm that was upgraded to an emergency warning for the national park as well as Old Yanchep Rd and Yanchep Beach Rd including Yanchep Golf estate.

Then less than an hour later at 5.02pm residents in the Yanchep town centre were receiving texts messages advising them of the emergency warning and telling them to leave the area if they could.

As the bushfire raced along Yanchep Beach Rd heading towards the Yanchep town centre it quickly destroyed beehives and a house as well as the Yanchep Service Station owned by the Vaz family.

It also threatened businesses and the koala enclosure in Yanchep National Park where 1127ha of land was burnt before in the coming days threatening residents and homes in Seatrees and Breakwater estates, Two Rocks, Guilderton and Woodridge with other areas in both local government areas put on watch and act.

In total the Yanchep bushfire burnt about 13,000ha of land and potentially put about 25,000 people at risk in the northern parts of the City of Wanneroo and the Shire of Gingin.

At its peak 400 firefighters fought the blaze, which accounted for about 4.7 million litres of the 8.9m litres of water used to fight bushfires in WA last year.

No lives were lost and the firefighters – from the Parks and Wildlife Service, Bush Fire Service, Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service, Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services and the Career Fire and Rescue Service – saved more than 6000 homes, which had been in the path of the bushfire.

On Monday, May 11 a Western Power spokesman said about 8am on the day of the bushfire a tree growing outside the vegetation clearance zone fell on a powerline starting a small scrub fire directly beneath the line and disrupting power.

“We subsequently repaired the damage caused by the tree falling and re-energised the network without incident by around 10am that day,’’ he said.