By Lidia Kelly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Firefighters battling a devastating bushfire that has destroyed 86 homes on the outskirts of Perth in Western Australia hope heavy rain forecast over the weekend will help douse the flames, state authorities said on Saturday.
Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in Perth, complicating a five-day lockdown imposed on Monday on the state capital after Western Australia detected its first coronavirus infection in 10 months.
State Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the fire had been contained, meaning fire fighters have stopped the fire from spreading but it is still actively burning.
"We expect light rain to commence early this afternoon, but the really heavy rain that will really help us with the fire won't occur until later this evening and into tomorrow," Klemm said at a televised press conference.
"But the devastation (the fire) has caused ... will stay with us for a long period of time."
The origins of the fire are still unknown, but Klemm said it was not suspicious.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan warned that the wet weather brought new risks of tree falls and other dangers.
The blazes were a painful reminder of the scores of fires that razed through Australia's east, south and west last year and burnt more than 12.6 million hectares (31 million acres) - nearly the size of Greece. More than 3,000 homes were lost, and 33 people died.
Perth, a city of two million people where there was a single case of the coronavirus reported a week ago, exited on Friday evening a snap five-day COVID-19 lockdown after reporting no cases for five straight days.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Stephen Coates)