By Melissa Sheil and Claire Ottaviano
UPDATE – After Echo News went to print on Thursday morning the number of homes lost was raised to 81
THE tight-knit community of Tilden Park sat together and watched as flames enveloped their estate on Monday evening, each of them wondering whose home would be left standing.
By the end of the night 80 per cent of homes in the community were lost, with 71 homes total destroyed across Wooroloo and Gidgegannup.
Over the next two days and nights, firefighters tirelessly battled to contain the fire’s 126km perimeter with the communities of Ellenbrook, The Vines, Bailup, Gidgegannup, Millendon, Henley Brook, Upper Swan, Aveley, Baskerville, Belhus, Brigadoon, Bullsbrook, Wooroloo and Wundowie still remaining under threat.
Craig Bruce fled his Falls Heights home in Tilden Park, with his housemate and their dog Claus – now, nothing remains but a melted metal frame sitting in a pile of ash.
“Tilden Park is such a tight-knit community so when we had to evacuate, 20 or 30 of us went to the IGA on Toodyay Road and were sitting in the carpark together,” he said.
“We saw the fire coming over the hill at home, a huge orange glow.
“We didn’t really think it would come our way, everyone tends to think no, it won’t be us, it won’t hit our house.
“But this time it was us.
“You could tell when the fires got a house because the smoke turned really black – we were playing a pretty morbid game of guessing whose house just went up.”
All he owns now is what he took with him during the evacuation – a laptop, phone, the clothes on his back and Claus.
“I’m not really okay, obviously, but you’ve got to look at the silver lining – when we rebuild, we’re basing the plans around a huge man cave and have learned our lesson about having a wooden house,” he said.
“I wouldn’t dream of moving away though, I’d never be able to find a community like the one I have here.”
Early Thursday morning, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services superintendent Peter Sutton said strong south-easterly winds overnight had tested crews protecting a number of homes under threat in Avon Ridge Estate, Shady Hills and around Great Northern Highway.
A retardant line dropped by a large air tanker on Wednesday managed to halt the fire at the edge of Shady Hills but winds were expected to again test boundaries on the western and northern side at the time of print today.
The NSW air tanker dropped 200,000L of retardant on Wednesday with a second air tanker arriving today.
Justin Osborne also lost his property on Reen Road in Gidgegannup.
“We are in shock to be honest,” he said.
“We’ve only owned this property since September and now it’s gone.
“My wife and I count ourselves as very lucky though as we also have a house in Fremantle to go to but the local devastation is startling and my heart goes out to everyone who isn’t so fortunate.”
Hundreds from the emergency impacted areas remain displaced, dispersed around three evacuation centres, in Swan View, Midland and Beechboro, or with family, friends or in other temporary accommodation.
The Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund was activated with a contribution of $500,000 to initiate the Wooroloo and Hills Bushfire 2021 Appeal.
The State Government will contribute a further $2 million.
For more stories on the 2021 Perth Hills fire see: