The Kings Park Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority says it is too earlyto determine the full extent of destruction from a deliberately lit blaze at the landmark park.
Acting chief executive Marcelle Broderick said she struggled to find the words to convey her horror that somebody purposely set out to harm the park.
“It’s a most horrendous arson crime…to do it in such a beautiful,valuable piece of land that has so much natural and historic relevance,” Ms Broderick said.
Initial searches have found some rock fall fencing near the fire was damaged as well as escarpment on the Crawley side of the park.
Ms Broderick said there were fears the Dryandra Lookout, nearForrest Drive, would be ruined by several nearby spot fires but thankfully it remained intact.
While Ms Broderick said today’s blaze was certainly significant and devastating, it did not go down as the worst in the park’s history.
She said a January 1996 fire along the Thomas Street side of the park, which damaged more than 60ha remained the most devastating.
This morning, more than 80 firefighters were on the ground and in the air to battle the blaze which started about 6.40am, and was brought under control about 11am.
FESA incident controller Bruce Jones said the fire had damaged 15ha area of the park, and had posed a big threat to the park and nearby homes.
Mr Jones said firefighting resources had been stretched to the limit, with fires also burning in Two Rocks and Hope Valley thismorning.
FESA investigators are now searching for the arsonist responsible, saying there is “no doubt” the fire was intentionally lit.
FESA spokesman Allen Gale said the arsonist had chosen the hottest of the day of the year to strike, and the worst possible wind conditions.
Det. Sgt David Gorton, from the police arson squad, said the fire was definitely the work of an arsonist, but only one ignition point had been identified to date, despite earlier reports of multiple fires.
“It puts lives at risk, it puts property at risk and it’s just an inconsiderate thing to do,” Det. Sgt Gorton said.
Mr Gale said crews from metropolitan Fire and Rescue Services, the Department of Environment and Conservation, Kings Park and volunteer bushfire brigades had rushed to the scene this morning.
The Department of Environment and Conservation brought in tankers to assist helitacs already battling the fire.
Very hot conditions and fresh and gusty north-easterly winds did not help firefighters.
Kings Park and Mounts Bay Road were closed to traffic as the fire raged.
Residents in upmarket homes bordering the park had been strongly advised to leave their homes. FESA advises that there is still a threat to homes from embers travelling through the air.
Fire and Emergency Services is urging nearby residents to close all doors and windows and turn off evaporative air-conditioners but keep water running through the system if possible.
Earlier this morning, thick smoke plumes billowed out of the park and engulfed apartments situated across the road from Kings Park.
A local resident, Michael, said he awoke to the smell of smoke, and was concerned for his safety. He was confident his home would be safe.
A Mayfair apartment resident, Wayne, said he wanted to see the person responsible for the fire severely dealt with. “It’s a pretty devastating thing to do,” he said.
About 9am, embers from the fire sparked a smaller blaze near the boatshed on Mounts Bay Road, close to the Cygne apartments.
The riverside fire was quickly brought under control.
Motorists are asked to avoid the area, reduce speed and drive carefully due to smoke.
Anybody with information about the fire should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
All entrances to the park, all roads within the park and Mounts Bay Road from Riverside Drive to Hackett Drive remain closed.
Anyone who saw suspicious activity or a small fire being lit off a dirt track on Forrest Drive near Balga carpark is asked to contact Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.