Holidaymakers trapped by blaze tearing apart southwestern Western Australia were able to escape in escorted convoy

Many vacationers and others trapped by a bushfire threatening lives and homes in southwest Western Australia have the option of leaving the region in an escorted convoy.

The fire broke out near Curtis Bay Beach in Dunsborough on Monday evening, and an emergency warning remains in place for parts of Eagle Bay, Naturaliste and Dunsborough in the town of Busselton.

An assisted evacuation is taking place this afternoon in the areas of Bunker Bay and Eagle Bay for those who wish to leave the area.

An escorted convoy will leave the Bunker Bay Resort at 4 p.m., with a separate convoy departing from the Eagle Bay Community Hall at the same time.

Residents and tourists wishing to take advantage of the convoys must arrive at one of the two locations before 3:30 p.m.

Authorities stressed that this was not a forced evacuation, but an opportunity for people who wanted to leave to do so.

People who choose to stay in the area are urged to ensure that they are self-sufficient for the duration of the emergency.

The blaze – which has already razed an estimated 200 hectares of bush – is moving slowly in a west-northwest direction and is still uncontrollable and unpredictable.

More than 150 firefighters battled the flames and air support was dispatched to assist the crews.

Fire marshal Blake Moore said about 70 people showed up at the Geographer Recreation Center evacuation site.

He estimated that there were still 390 people in the Bunker Bay community and a similar number in the Eagle Bay area.

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the fire was “of great concern” to people living in the community of Eagle Bay.

“It is a very serious situation,” he said.

“We want people to listen to the warnings and heed the warnings.”

Guests at the Pullman Bunker Bay resort told the ABC they were among hundreds of people who were unable to leave the resort.

A kayaker watches the fire in the bush at Eagle Bay
A man in a dinghy watches the fire that triggered an emergency warning in the Eagle Bay area.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Perth teenage girls Greta Lynch and Ruby Smith, both 16, are staying at the resort with their families.

They said they were told that many employees were unable to get to work this morning because of the fire.

“Everyone just helped, everyone was really nice,” they said.

Ruby Smith and Greta Lynch standing outside the complex, smiling.
Ruby Smith and Greta Lynch, both 16, are hosts at Pullman Bay Bunker Resort.(Provided)

This morning, residents of the Eagle Bay and Bunker Bay areas could not be evacuated due to limited road access. Thousands of vacationers stay in the picturesque tourist enclaves during school vacations.

Water bomber drops retarder on Eagle Bay
A water bomber drops a self-timer on the fire at Eagle Bay, a popular tourist area amid the Western Australian school holidays.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Road closures have prevented Busselton Horse and Pony Club president Claire d’Espeissis from leaving her property where various animals are housed.

“We are cut, we are watching things closely at the moment,” she said.

“Things are going much better than last night. [We’re] glad to see the smoke clearing a bit from all the firefighting work last night, things are looking a lot better today.

“We have a lot of animals there, so it’s quite a concern, dogs, cats, horses and a llama.”

Trinity folder, three sons in the backseat and his wife in a car
Trinity File and her family evacuated their vacation home around 1 a.m. and spent the rest of the night in a car.(ABC News)

Trinity File, her partner, her three sons and dog Oscar were at a friend’s vacation home when told to evacuate in the middle of the night and had to spend the rest of the evening in the car .

“We could see a haze and a glow in a westerly direction [moving] at a pretty fast pace in the few hours we were in the house, ”he said.

A community meeting took place this afternoon at the Geographer Recreation Center in Busselton.

Several dozen people seated in rows of chairs in a community center.
People gathered at a community meeting to get the latest information on the blaze.(ABC News: Georgia Loney)

Mr. Moore spoke to the audience about the possibility of an assisted evacuation.

He also said that there had been no reports of serious property damage.

Mr Moore said fire conditions are expected to change this afternoon in Meelup and Eagle Bay.

A bushfire and action alert is in place for people north of Caves Road and west of Cape Naturaliste Road.

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