Eagle Bay bushfire at emergency warning level, threatening holiday homes near Dunsborough

Date: 2022-01-11 12:17:42

Holiday makers in one of Western Australia’s most popular tourist hotspots have been cut off by road as an out-of-control bushfire threatens lives and properties in the Eagle Bay area.

An emergency warning has been issued for the fire, which is about 250 kilometres south of Perth in WA’s South West, with some residents being told it was too late to leave.

Incident controller Blake Moore said authorities were unable to evacuate people from the Eagle Bay and Bunker Bay areas, where thousands of holidaymakers are staying over summer, because of the limited road access.

“The Eagle Bay and Bunker Bay communities are isolated due to the fire spread — we’re unable to get people out of those areas currently,” he told Fairfax radio.

The bushfire began overnight and went to emergency level in the early hours of Tuesday.(Supplied)

“We have established community safer places within those areas for those people to go if they have no other option.”

The emergency warning is in place for parts of Eagle Bay, Naturaliste and Dunsborough in the city of Busselton. 

Fire trucks have set up a road block
Fire trucks have set up a roadblock on Cape Naturaliste Road.(ABC News: Anthony Pancia)

People in the Eagle Bay townsite, Meelup Regional Park and in an area bounded by Cape Naturaliste Road to the north and west, Okapa Rise to the south and Wardandi Drive and Willanup Rise are in danger.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has urged people in the affected area to act immediately to survive as there is a threat to lives and homes. 

Firefighters have been working overnight to try to contain the out-of-control bushfire, which started near the intersection of Curtis Bay Beach in Dunsborough about 8pm yesterday. 

The blaze is moving fast in a south-westerly direction and is unpredictable.

About 150 firefighters are at the scene, and aerial support is being sent to assist them.

Roads closed, evacuation centre set up

An evacuation centre has been set up at Geographe Leisure Centre on Recreation Lane and Queen Elizabeth Avenue in West Busselton. 

Eagle Bay is a popular coastal tourist spot near Dunsborough known for its spectacular beach and boasts many upmarket holiday homes.

There is only one access road which leads from Dunsborough, which runs through bushland near the coast.

There is a winery and brewery in the area and a five-star resort a few kilometres away at Bunker Bay.

Fire trucks outside a brewery at night
Fire crews attended Eagle Bay Brewery overnight, and the business remains closed today.(Facebook: Eagle Bay Brewery)

Mr Moore said authorities had evacuated Meelup National Park overnight to clear any illegal campers, but they did not know how many people were still in the Eagle Bay area.

He said more support for fire crews was expected later today.

“We are expecting a south-westerly change this afternoon which will place pressure on the northern side of the fire, and we currently are working to build some containment lines in that area,” he told ABC Radio Perth.

Perth man Andy Shaw was staying at a holiday house in Eagle Bay with his wife, four-year-old son, and his parents-in-law when his wife smelt smoke.

Andy Shaw at the evacuation centre
Perth man Andy Shaw was staying at a holiday house in Eagle Bay with his wife, four-year-old son, and his parents-in-law when his wife smelt smoke.(ABC News: Georgia Loney)

The family received an emergency text about 1:00am.

“I went out in the street and I could see the DFES guys were there, knocking on doors,” he said.

“There’s only one road in and out … we headed towards the fire engines and they waved us through. 

A fire in the distance and emergency vehicles with flashing lights
Cape Naturaliste Road, which is the only access road from Dunsborough to Eagle Bay, has been closed to traffic.(ABC News: Supplied)

“It looked like we were driving toward the fire so it felt counter-intuitive, heart rate got up a little bit, but once we got to the firies we realised we were in safe hands.” 

Department of Communities’ regional executive director Brendan Mooney said 65 people, mainly holidaymakers, had registered at the evacuation centre in Busselton.

Evacuated to Dunsborough

Rob McKenzie, who was staying at his holiday home in Meelup, spoke of being woken late at night by neighbours.

“We could hear some sirens — it sounded like a car chase,” he told Nine radio.

“And then there was this huge thumping on the back door of our place. 

“We’re in eight acres of bush up on Meelup Bridge, so quite up high, but someone was smashing the door down, we thought we were being invaded.

A paddock with a bushfire and smoke in the background
The bushfire came close to Wise Winery, which has closed for today.(Facebook: Wise Winery)

“But it was one of the fantastic people that were coming to tell everyone they needed to evacuate.

“So we literally grabbed everything … and left straight away.”

Mr McKenzie said he spent the night on the beach at Dunsborough with other evacuees, watching the blaze from afar.

“It was quite spectacular, burning bright red and bursts of trees going up,” he said.

The owners of local restaurant Meelup Farmhouse, which is in the Meelup National Park,  said on Facebook they were unsure if their business had suffered any damage.

“Very few words right now other than THANK YOU to the local volunteer brigade, fire departments and DFES for bravely battling the bushfire that started in the Meelup Regional Park last night,” the post read.

“We are still awaiting more information from DFES as the situation continues and hope to be able to return to the property soon to assess any damage.”

Watch and act warning current

A watch and act warning is also in place for people north of Caves Road and west of Cape Naturaliste Road as the fire is approaching in the area. 

People in those areas that cannot leave safely are advised to go to ‘safer places of last resort’ at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort and Eagle Bay Community Hall. 

A rocky coastline with homes in the distance
The picturesque coastline surrounding Eagle Bay makes it a popular tourist destination.(ABC News: Andrea Mayes)

Several roads have been closed including Cape Naturaliste Road at Our Lady of Cape School, Meelup Beach Road and Castle Rock Road.
Motorists are asked to avoid the area, reduce speed and drive carefully due to smoke. 

A community meeting about the fire is due to be held this afternoon in Busselton.

The cause of the fire is unknown. 


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