Eagle Bay bushfire: Residents granted permits to return to homes after devastating blaze

Brianna DuganThe West Australian
VideoDFES has released terrifying on-the-ground footage from the Eagle Bay bushfire near Dunsborough in WA's South West.

The owners of Meelup Farmhouse — which was under threat from a raging fire since Monday night — have thanked firefighters for saving their property, as authorities reveal they’re treating the blaze as “suspicious”.

Elizabeth and Mark Ahearn, who have owned the popular venue for two years, said they were in Perth on Monday when they got a call warning their property was in the red zone.

“Our sister and brother-in-law live on-site with their children and they were evacuated just after midnight. And in that point of time it was basically just pack up what you can and leave,” Ms Ahearn said.

The couple drove an anxious three hours to come back to their property on Tuesday, but with roadblocks in place they could only watch on with other residents as firefighters did what they could to battle the blaze.

The anxious wait was finally over when DFES downgraded the emergency warning to a “watch and act”, and the couple were given a permit to enter the zone and go back to their property.

“We took a trip down on Tuesday morning, but we haven’t been able to access the property to really assess what’s left,” Ms Ahearn said.

“But (DFES) have just given us word that everything is still there and Meelup Farmhouse and Wise Winery were spared which is such a relief.”

Elizabeth and Mark Ahearn, who have owned the popular venue for two years, said they were in Perth on Monday when they got a call warning their property was in the red zone.
Camera IconElizabeth and Mark Ahearn, who have owned the popular venue for two years, said they were in Perth on Monday when they got a call warning their property was in the red zone. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian
Meelup Farmhouse prior to the blaze.
Camera IconMeelup Farmhouse prior to the blaze. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

The blaze, which was started in dense bushland in the Meelup Regional Park just after 8pm on Monday, has torn through 225 hectares.

“The cause of the fire is being treated as suspicious and investigators are urging anyone that saw any suspicious activity in the Meelup Regional Park between Old Dunsborough town site and Castle Rock Road between 6pm and midnight on January 10,” WA Police said.

Ms Ahearn said it was noticeable how much of an effort firefighters went to to save the property and their animals.

“We’ve got animals on the property as well, and (firefighters) have gone to incredible efforts to just keep them safe, because the fire did come very close. Right up to the edge of the property,” she said.

South West Bushfire - Cape Naturaliste Road, which is the only access road from Dunsborough to Eagle Bay, has been closed to traffic.
Camera IconMs Ahearn said it was noticeable how much of an effort firefighters went to to save the property and their animals. Credit: Instagram/Instagram

Ms Ahearn said it was “hard to put into words” how grateful they are of the tireless efforts by firefighters, but she wants to start with “thank you”.

“It’s absolutely incredible — everyone sort of says how lucky we are, but there was obviously a plan in place to manoeuvre that fire around the property, it’s very evident because of how close it did actually come.

“It’s hard to say thank you enough. We’ve got to start somewhere with saying thanks, so thank you.

“We hope we can have a beer, or a wine, or a gin with them really soon and shake their hands because it was just incredible,” she said.

 Bushfire in Meelup Regional Park near Dunsborough
Camera Icon Bushfire in Meelup Regional Park near Dunsborough. Credit: Dunsborough Volunteer Bush Fire /Dunsborough Volunteer Bush Fire

Mr Ahearn said he is “really grateful” to the firefighters and everyone who helped combat the blaze.

He said the uncertainty they have been feeling since Monday is now gone, and it’s been replaced by relief.

“From the photos we’ve seen there must have been a wall of trucks and guys and girls defending that fire to stop it coming anywhere near that property, which we just can’t put into words,” Mark said

The couple plan to hopefully open back up for business tomorrow.

##MUST CREDIT## South West Bushfire - waveos_rancheros
Current scenes out at Eagle Bay
Camera IconThe blaze tore through 225 hectares of bushland. Credit: Instagram/waveos_rancheros/Instagram/waveos_rancheros

Another resident in Meelup Beach, Maria Plumb, has spent two nights away from her home and is grateful the anxious wait is finally over.

Her property was on the border of the fire zone, and spent two days praying the blaze didn’t jump over the containment line.

“The fire didn’t jump which we were very lucky,” Ms Plumb said.

Meelup Bushfires. Dunsborough resident Maria Plumb at the Incident Control Centre on the Dunsborough Playing Fields.
Camera IconDunsborough resident Maria Plumb. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“Thanks to all the firefighters that did a tremendous job, we can’t thank them enough.

“(Im excited) to go back and see my chooks and my fish, and to see if they are okay. And to have a look and see the property. I’m just glad that the whole area has been taken care of,” she said.

Ms Plumb, who lives with her husband, said she doesn’t know if there has been any damage to her home of 25 years and is anxious to find out.

The couple spent Monday night in their car just watching thick, black smoke and amber flames light up the night sky.

“We stayed in the car all (Monday) night, and then last night a friend at the Broadwater Resort put us up so we were very grateful,” Ms Plumb said.

“This morning we are very happy we can get the permit and we can go back home.”

Dozens of residents have spent the morning collecting permits from the DFES command post that was set up in Dunsborough.

Families and animals all piled out of cars all looking noticeably tired and anxious and walked to the post to collect their permit, which grants them access back to their property where they will find out if any damage has been done.

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