Esperance Bushfires Kill Four

18/11/2015 8:25 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Four people have died in bushfires raging near Esperance, WA, in what Premier Colin Barnett said were the state's worst fires for 50 years.

WA Police confirmed on Wednesday morning four people -- two men and two women -- had been found dead in an area between Grass Patch and Salmon Gums, around 90 kilometres north of Esperance in the state's south. Three major blazes in the area have been sparked by lightning strikes.

WA's Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson said two adult males and two adult females had been found dead in two cars, with one man in one car and the three others in a second vehicle.

He said he was unable to confirm how they died, whether in a car crash or due to the fire itself, and could not confirm reports a further two bodies had been found. Gregson said there were no reports of further people missing or injured, but that three homes had been destroyed in the fires.

The ABC is reporting one of the men was a local farmer who had been trying to warn neighbours to evacuate.

Esperance resident Andy Johnston told the ABC that the man was fleeing the fire but stopped to warn another neighbour who was driving into the fire.

"One of my mates' neighbours unfortunately passed away with possibly another person that he was trying to warn to tell to turn around and head the opposite way as they were fleeing from the fire," he said.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said the fires were the state's most deadly since the 1960s.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had spoken with Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who is responsible for emergency response and Premier Barnett, who is keeping Federal agencies briefed. At this stage there is not a need for the involvement of Federal agencies, he said.

"But we are obviously ready to provide assistance whenever required," Turnbull said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who've lost their loved ones in this bushfire and our great admiration is with the firefighters and the (state emergency services) of Western Australia as they battle against the fires.

"Summer can be a very challenging and dangerous time in Australia as we know and this is a tragic event."

WA Police said an investigation into the four deaths would take place.

“During last night, four people were located deceased in the fire area of Grass Patch, Salmon Gums and surrounding areas in the Shire of Esperance,’’ WA Police said.

“This morning five Disaster Victim Identification officers along with two Arson Squad detectives will fly to the area."

Two major fires are raging at Grass Patch and Salmon Gums, 80 kilometres and 100 kilometres north of Esperance respectively. Another is burning at Stockyard Creek, 25 kilometres east of Esperance.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares have reportedly been burnt out in the multiple fires.

The DFES warned people in Stockyard Creek and Mullet Lakes to prepare to evacuate and to leave immediately if safe to do so.

"Leaving at the last minute is deadly... If your plan is to stay and actively defend, do not rely on mains water pressure as it may be affected," a DFES statement said.

"If you have access to a water tank and plan to defend your home, start patrolling with your hose and put out spot fires. If you cannot leave, you need to get ready to shelter in your home and actively defend it. If you are not at home, it is too dangerous now to return."

Heatwave weather

Elsewhere around Australia, the heat is on. Much of the country is set to swelter through a sudden hot spell in coming days, with Wednesday and Friday seeing big temperature spikes. Sydney is set to hit 32 degrees on Wednesday, while Adelaide will hit 39 according to Weatherzone. Ceduna, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs are heading into 40-degree territory.

By Friday, much of the East Coast will also be nudging the 40-degree mark, with Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, and Canberra all on alert for high temperatures.

Total fire bans have been declared across large parts of South Australia ahead of Wednesday's predicted extreme heat. Huge swathes of the country will also experience their most extreme fire danger since last summer, with a band of heat moving east across Australia. South Australia is on fire alert today, Victoria and northern SA on Thursday, and NSW 's fire danger will peak on Friday.

Esperance, WA Fires

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