Prison would be too good for any piece of dirt arsonist who starts a blaze during the still-burning Perth Hills bushfire that has razed 86 homes, the WA Premier says.Firefighters have been tirelessly battling the fierce bushfire since Monday afternoon, with almost 11,000 hectares burnt.
But late on Thursday, some crews were redirected to a separate blaze near Bullsbrook.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services deemed that second bushfire suspicious, but by Friday afternoon they had backtracked, telling NCA NewsWire that authorities were still investigating.
“Anyone who is an arsonist is just a piece of dirt,” Premier Mark McGowan told reporters earlier.
“If they get caught, jail is too good for them.”
DFES Commissioner Darren Klemm later confirmed the investigation was ongoing.
“As the investigation goes on, it will be identified either way as to whether it was deliberate or not,” he told reporters.
“Regardless of that, arson occurs. We know that. We deal with that every year from a bushfire point of view. It is deplorable.
“Additional bushfires caused by arson, by people lighting them, does nothing to support those (firefighting) volunteers and the effort that they put in.”
The number of homes wiped out in the Perth Hills blaze was revised up to 86 following a further assessment, which Mr Klemm described as “absolutely devastating”, but he said there were no properties lost overnight.
“The whole emergency services family, we stand with them and acknowledge the difficulties that they’re going through,” he said.
“Our thoughts are with them. We wish them all the best. We stand ready to assist them wherever we can.”
Mr McGowan also extended his thoughts to everyone affected by the bushfires.
“The people whose homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, we’re all thinking of you, and the firefighters who have put themselves in danger to protect the community, thank you so much,” he said.
“West Australians stand ready to help in any way that we can.”
Speaking after a national cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr McGowan had updated him on the fire.
“This is terrible news for those who are impacted by that (fire) and there are still many, many firefighters out there doing their job,” he said.
Mr Klemm said the weather was cooler on Friday but there were still strong winds.
It is hoped some rain will help fire crews on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve still got some difficult conditions to get through this afternoon and tonight, overnight into tomorrow,” Mr Klemm said.
“Ahead of the passage of that tropical low down the coast … we are expecting incredibly strong winds, stronger than we’ve had already.
“So, some challenges still exist for us. At this time, we’re being advised that we will see rain on or about the fire ground at approximately 11am tomorrow.
“The rain is not guaranteed either and so our planning is still continuing should that rain not occur.”
The commissioner said authorities were also working to open up some areas to the public, with some residents east of Toodyay Road allowed full access later on Friday.
Restricted access permits for those areas west of Toodyay Road are expected to be available from Saturday.
“I can assure you that nothing is more at the forefront of our mind than getting people back in to their homes,” he said.
“We understand the mental health issues that go with people that are outside of their home.
“They want to get back. They’re worried about their pets, they’re worried about their stock, they’re worried about their homes.
“They just want to get their life back to normal and we, along with the local governments and everybody involved here, just want to get those people back as soon as we can.
“But we want to make sure it’s safe. We don’t want trees falling down on people.”
About 160 firefighters are still at the scene, but the area of the fire has now been reduced to a perimeter of 122km.
The emergency warning area has been reduced to parts of Avon Valley National Park, Belhus, Brigadoon, Bullsbrook, Ellenbrook, Gidgegannup, The Vines, Upper Swan and Walyunga National Park.
“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive,” DFES warns.
A watch and act alert is in place for parts of Aveley, Avon Valley National Park, Bailup, Baskerville, Belhus Brigadoon, Bullsbrook, Ellenbrook, Gidgegannup, Henley Brook, Muchea, The Vines and Upper Swan.
Burning embers may be blown around homes and there may be a risk of spot fires starting ahead of the fire, DFES warns.
Some roads remain closed and the three evacuation centres are still available.
Western Power says about 600 homes and businesses are without electricity.
Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund had so far raised more than $4 million.
Some people who lost everything have also turned to a GoFundMe campaign.
There is also funding assistance available from both the state and federal governments.
The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the bushfire a catastrophe.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

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