As the flames were finally put out, Perth hills residents returned to start to pick up the pieces after Sunday’s devastating bushfires
The flames may be out, but the recovery for the Perth hills after Sunday’s devastating firestorm is just beginning as residents who lost homes return to view the damage.
As firefighters mopped up in Stoneville, Parkerville and Mt Helena, the toll of properties lost was finalised at 52, with more than $13 million in damage already reported by insurers.
And those worst affected made the grim trip back to what remained of their houses, to literally start picking up the pieces.
“The glass didn’t shatter, it melted,” Stoneville resident Stacey Delich told AAP.
“We will have to contact the insurance company and see if we can salvage anything. If we can find anything, that’s a bonus.
“But they’re things that can’t be found any more … they’re all gone.”
Counselling services have been made available to the dozens of people confronted with the reality of their loss.
“To be told verbally is one thing, to see it visually is quite another,” said Deputy Fire Commissioner Brad Stringer.
The loss was mixed with growing frustration for other residents, who were asked to prove their address before being given a permit to be allowed to return to their homes to assess the damage.
Fire commissioner Wayne Gregson, a Hills resident himself, said he could understand the heightened emotion.
“I accept that as a potential possibility, some people will say bugger the authorities and go back in,” Commissioner Gregson said.
“They are putting themselves at risk by ignoring the roadblocks, but I can understand that – if it was my house I’d be equally as anxious to know.”
Nearly a dozen people were forced to sleep at the emergency evacuation centre set up in nearby Swan View, with dozens more displaced families relying on the goodwill of friends and family.
The generosity of locals had been so overwhelming with donations of clothes, toys, blankets, and personal items that people have been asked to use a local Salvation Army depot to drop off donations, or donate money to a disaster fund instead.
The fire is being blamed for the death of one man, 62 year-old Ron Shaw, who collapsed as he stood on the roof of his Hovea home to prepare for the flames.
Insurance assessors began reviewing claims in the bushfire-affected communities, with more than 300 claims topping $13 million.
Power remained out for around 450 homes late on Tuesday.
As the emergency response gave way to investigation, Commissioner Gregson confirmed the fire was most likely sparked by a fallen power pole on private property, which remains the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain.
Thousands of private power poles are spread across the state, and have already been blamed for sparking a bushfire last January which threatened houses in Chidlow.
Mr Gregson suggested the time had come to review the responsibilities placed on homeowners to maintain poles on their land.
“Is it fair and reasonable to expect an owner to be responsible for that type of infrastructure?” he said on ABC radio.