Eagle Bay bushfire: Locals trapped, wineries under threat as out-of-control blaze continues to rage
A massive blaze threatening one of the South West’s tourist hotspots is encroaching on local wineries and venues, and has trapped residents and holiday-makers in the Eagle Bay area.
Those evacuees now face a nervous wait to find out whether their properties are still standing — or whether they will be able to return home.
Many residents in the Eagle Bay area have been trapped, with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services advising it is too late to leave and that “leaving now would be deadly”.
An emergency bushfire warning is in place for those in Eagle Bay townsite, Meelup Regional Park and in the area bounded by Cape Naturaliste Road to the north and west, Okapa Rise to the south, Wardandi Drive and Willanup Rise.
People in the area were woken from their sleep by an emergency text sent from DFES — or firefighters banging on their door at 1.30am — telling them to evacuate the area before it was too late.
Refuges for people who do not have anywhere to shelter and cannot safely flee from the fire have been set up at the Eagle Bay Community Hall and the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort.
A community meeting will be held at the Geographe Leisure Centre on Queen Elizabeth Drive in Busselton at 2pm.
A number of nearby businesses have closed for the day, including the popular Eagle Bay Brewing Co, which is near the heart of the bushfire emergency.
Posting on their Facebook page, the brewery said they would be closed while firefighters battled the blaze.
“As you may be aware a bush fire started last night in the Meelup Regional Park and continued to burn throughout the night into today,” the popular venue said.
“Eagle Bay Brewing Co will be closed today.
“A HUGE HUGE thank you to all the fire brigades — DFES, our local fire brigades and our volunteers for their amazing efforts throughout the night & into today
“Thanks everyone for your support and well wishes and to our amazing community down south. Those in the area please stay safe.”
Meelup Farmhouse and Wise Winery are both currently under direct threat by the fire.
Wise Winery, which is located off Eagle Bay Road, also took to Facebook to thank local firefighters and let customers know they are closed.
“First up, we are so grateful to the incredible firefighters who are working so hard to bring the nearby bushfire under control,” the post read.
“A fire started in the Meelup Regional Park last night and teams from DFES and volunteer brigades are working to bring it under control.
“Wise Wine and Meelup farmhouse are okay, but the fire came really close.
“We’re closed today, and our office is unattended, but we’ll keep you posted as we know more.”
One local said his holiday home had been threatened by the blaze, but he didn’t know whether it was still standing.
“We don’t know if the house has survived or not,” Rob told 6PR.
“The road is closed off and we can’t get in, so we just don’t know.
“I really appreciate the work the volunteer firefighters do, they really do a terrific job,” he said.
After being forced to flee the area, Rob said he drove to a nearby beach to find safety, which was “just full of cars”.
Emergency Animal Support Evacuation WA are working with those in the local community to ensure animals in the region are safe and evacuated properly.
Founder of EASE Dusty Murray-Whelan said the best thing for residents to do in this situation is to “leave early” and “get your animals out as soon as possible.”
“Even if you’re just on an advice level, get out and get prepared,” Ms Murray-Whelan said.
“Do not wait and see. This fire is moving exceptionally fast. Reach out and EASE will help you.
“The best thing to do is leave early and follow DFES’ advice.”
Ms Murray-Whelan, who founded EASE ten years ago, said if residents had nowhere to take animals when evacuating they should take them to the evacuation centres.
“The safest thing to do is bring them with you to the evacuation centre and let them know you have animals, and that advice is directly from DFES,” she said.
“We work with people in the community who put their hand up and say ‘I have a safe place, or a spare crate, or a spare float’, and connect them with those who are asking for support in fire zones.”
Ms Murray-Whelan said if people did not or could not evacuate in time, and the fire was engulfing their property, residents should not open up pens and let their animals roam free.
“As hard as it is, you should not allow your animals to roam free. That is putting the animals’ lives in perilous danger, and our firefighters in danger of striking those animals,” she said.
“Animals have a much better chance of survival if you only open internal gates. You should put them in low cut grass areas, or well-reticulated areas and not near anything flammable like houses.
“You need to take off all rugs and halters, and leave the animals naked.”
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