Find Wholesaling Leads

House Flipping Basics: Marketing

So, you need to draw the homeowners to you with marketing and advertising. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Marketing your wholesale business can be as simple as putting up a few handwritten signs in the area where you’re looking for wholesaling property. Or it can be as quick as placing an ad in the local newspaper.

Bandit Signs

A lot of real estate investors use bandit signs to advertise houses for sale, but you can also use them to advertise your wholesaling business. You should ideally place these signs everywhere you can in your area. Signs are the easiest and most visible marketing tool you can use. Make sure that your signs are simple, with bold print or bold dark handwriting on them. You can simply state, ‘I buy cheap real estate’ on your bandit signs, along with your phone number or even website. Or you can also write, ‘Will Pay Cash for Any House’ on your signs. These are great and simple ways of drawing in house flipping leads.


In addition, you can use your word processing program to create a simple flyer with tear off strips at the bottom containing your contact information. Blanket your area with these flyers. Place them in laundry mats, on telephone poles and even ask local businesses if you can place a pile of them on their check out counter. A great place to see if you can leave a bunch of flyers is the local library. They’ll often have a bulletin board for these kinds of items.

Skip Tracing

Many investors choose to use skip tracing to find leads in bulk. A reputable real estate skip tracing company can often delivery bulk lists of leads within 24 hours.

Classified Ads

Another option is to place a simple classified ad in the local newspapers. Place your ad in the papers, the local shoppers and even in local real estate magazines. The wording for these ads is the same as above. Tell them ‘I buy houses!’ and provide your contact information.


You can also bring in wholesaling property leads by getting people to work for you! A network is very easy to build up and usually starts by talking shop with other local real estate types. You can contact all kinds of investors and people involved with real estate to let them know you are buying homes. [widget:ad_unit-243246181]There is a long list of people you can contact to bring into your network:

  • Local Real Estate Clubs

Contact and join these local clubs. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, educate yourself and find both buyers and sellers.

  • Realtors

There are plenty of realtors and they usually specialize in different kinds of property, including foreclosures. Make contact with a few realtors and let them know that you are looking to buy some cheaper houses that they wouldn’t normally be able to place on the market. You might be surprised what they have on hand.

  • Landlords

Landlords are a great resource for both selling property and buying property. Give them your card, tell them you’ve got properties on hand for cheap and that you are always looking to buy properties too.

  • Local Attorneys

Attorneys are involved in all kinds of real estate from foreclosures to inherited properties. Let them know that you are looking to buy unwanted homes. The attorneys may have clients who are looking to sell off some property on the cheap. Finding wholesaling leads is a cinch once you get started. All you need is the proper advertising and a good network to bring the leads to you. It may take you a little while to get the leads started coming in, but remain optimistic and persistent and you’ll find more work than you can handle.

Costs of Starting a Wholesaling Business

House Flipping Basics and Wholesaling Basics

When involved in wholesaling there are two levels of cost. The first is the cost associated with house flipping. The second is the cost associated with wholesaling. These are two separate, but closely related enterprises. You’ll have to decide as a real estate investor whether you’ll be flipping a house or just wholesaling it. This will determine your costs.

Wholesaling Costs

The costs of starting a wholesaling business are really minimal. You’ll be focused on selling that house before the agreement to sell the house reaches its closing date. As soon as you get a client to sign the agreement to sell their house you should be out the door or on the phone looking for potential buyers. These buyers are usually other investors who like to buy houses cheaply and fix them up for rental or the traditional real estate market. They may even be hard money lenders who are looking to expand their business into new areas. You won’t be spending money to fix up the house, on insurance or even placing the property with a realtor if you can help it. Yet, you’ll also usually be responsible for closing costs and even a referral bonus if someone referred the property lead to you. Basic Wholesaling Property Costs:

Loan costs or closing fee

You may be responsible for one set of closing fees when you buy the house and sell it to your buyer. This depends on how you set up the sale. Most likely the title company will just deduct the closing costs from your profits before cutting you a check.


Property wholesalers sometimes offer referral bonuses to people who provide them with property leads. This is usually about $500 to $1000.

Skip Tracing Service

Property wholesales often use a real estate skip tracing service. The cost per lead for a high quality service can be as low as .20 cents.


You’ve got to get your name out there. Advertising doesn’t need to cost much, just as much as a ream of paper and some printing ink or as much as a radio spot and classified ads in the local paper. This is up to you.

Appraisal Costs

Depending on where you are and how you close the deal you may need to hire an appraiser to look over the house and give you an estimate of its market value.

Home inspection

Wholesaling property buyers aren’t usually nervous about buying a home that needs some work, but they may want to know what kind of work needs to be done before purchase. So, you’ll have to get a property inspector out there to evaluate the damage so you can present the information to your buyer. [widget:ad_unit-243246181]

House Flipping Costs

When you decide to start house flipping as an investor your costs will include all of the above and more. House flippers often fix up the property they are trying to flip first and will even place it with a real estate agent to try and sell the property for top dollar. Basic House Flipping Costs:

Loan or Mortgage

House flippers can also buy the house they intend to flip. This can mean a mortgage in your name or at least cash out of pocket that you’ll have to make back on the sale of the property.


Since the property will be in your name house flipping basics says you’ve got to cover it!  It can be difficult to get homeowner’s insurance for a wholesale property. Your best bet may be to pick up Builder’s Risk Insurance. This is insurance that’s intended for properties being built or in the process of being remodeled.

Carrying Costs

These are the basic costs of owning a home. You won’t have to worry about them when starting a wholesaling business, but if you intend to be a house flipper this is what you’ll be responsible for:

    • Utilities
    • Monthly Mortgage Payment
    • Property Taxes
    • Regular Maintenance

House flipping basics says; the longer you hold that property in your name, the more carrying costs you’ll have. The more cost you have, the more you have to sell the property for just to break even.

Remodeling and Repair

House Flippers will want to repair any damage to the cheap property they’ve just purchased. So you’ll be responsible for remodeling costs and repair costs to the contractors you hire.

Realtor Commission

When the house actually sells on the market, you’ll probably have a realtor’s commission to pay. However, this usually comes out of the profits from the sale of the real estate property. This is usually about 6% of the selling price. As you can see, house flipping costs are much higher than the basic costs for wholesaling a property. Yet, there are benefits to both options. Starting a wholesaling business costs very little for the investor, and involves wholesaling a lot of houses for an average of $3,000 to $5,000. House flipping costs a lot of money initially, but promises a bigger payoff on one house. Some flippers claim to make anywhere from $50,000 profit per sale all the way up to a whopping half a million dollars (in rare cases when the housing market was explosive!)

Potential Mistakes Every Wholesaler Makes

Bragging Rights:

They say a first impression is very important and that is especially true of the first meeting with your homeowners. The goal of this meeting is to get them under contract with you to sell the house. During that meeting you want to be polite and professional. That doesn’t mean bragging about the hundreds of deals you may or may not have completed already. House Flipping Tip: Coming off too slick when meeting with a buyer or the homeowners before any contracts are signed can cause you to lose that contract.


This is an especially problematic trait for house flippers. There is a tendency to want to bring in just one big sell through house flipping a property. This desire for a large cash payoff can cause the investor to lose the chance to make any sale on the property. An asking price that is too high will be out of reach or unattractive for potential homebuyers. House Flipping Tip: Take the first good offer that is made on your real estate wholesale or house flip.


Your best chances for making a profit in real estate wholesaling is to create a process and perform due diligence before signing anything. Some investors just want to jump right in on a house flip or wholesale. So, they sign that contract before figuring out if they can really make a profit on their investment of time and money. Take a little time to calculate the market value of the property you are interested in compared to the price the homeowners are asking. Then, you’ll know what you can offer the homeowners and what you can ask in finder’s fees from the buyer on a wholesale. House Flipping Tip: Perform Due Diligence and develop a plan for your house flip before signing.

Real Estate Pitfalls:

You can also fail to close a wholesaling deal through some common pitfalls that crop up. The failure to make a closing can be very damaging to the house flipper, who has to cover the investment in the property and carrying costs until it sells. Many wholesales choose to use a rei skip trace service to find properties in bulk to increase the odds of closing wholesale deals.

Over budget:

It’s easy to get over budget when fixing up a property for the house flip and that can ruin your bottom line even when you sell the property. Keep a tight rein on your remodeling budget during a house flip. That means paying close attention to your contractors, being sparing with what you purchase for the home and being vigilant about turning off utilities or remembering to turn off things like the lights when you leave the home. House Flipping Tip: Set a budget and stick to it.

Lazy Contractors:

It’s the proverbial contractor who is always claiming to be done in ‘two weeks’ but he or she tends to run into the months late time period. There are a lot of great contractors out there, but also a few poor contractors. When you are remodeling a house to flip, you’ll have to do your research before hiring a contractor. You’ll also have to be willing to fire that contractor if he or she isn’t up to snuff. House Flipping Tip: Research a contractor before hiring and don’t forget to ask for references.

No Inspection:

Don’t just take the homeowner’s word for it. Pay to get an inspector to look over the property before you enter the purchase agreement. This way you’ll have the information you need to fix up a property and won’t be caught off guard by any major structural problems. It’s also a good idea to have the inspector’s report on hand for the buyer. House Flipping Tip: Pay the few hundred dollars up front to have the property inspected.   Any of the above reasons can be the cause of your inability to close a wholesaling deal. Stick close to this house flipping guide and you’ll find that you are more likely to flip those houses successfully.

Understanding the Foreclosure Process

Begins with Non-Payment

A lender is often a bank that lends the buyer money based on their job, down payment and credit history to purchase a home.  In return the buyer agrees to a home mortgage with that bank to begin paying back the loan.  The bank makes money because the loan accrues interest over the lifetime of the mortgage.  The buyer becomes a homeowner and everyone is happy.  Should the buyer turned homeowner stop paying back the loan through the mortgage, the bank has a safety net in being able to take ownership of the homeowner’s property. This is called a foreclosure.  The foreclosure is initiated by the bank when the homeowner has stopped making payments on the home mortgage.  The bank may wait an extended period of time before beginning the foreclosure, allowing anywhere from 3 to 6 months for the homeowner to being making payments on the mortgage again.  The bank would prefer not to take a property back in foreclosure.  It’s a messy, lengthy process and the loss mitigation officers must consider property the bank owns to be a non-performing asset.

Property Enters Pre-foreclosure

A foreclosure is begun when the bank files a Notice of Default through a trustee with the County Recorder’s Office.  This notice lets the county and the homeowners know that the bank is getting ready to foreclosure on their property.  In short sale investing the home is now considered to be in pre-foreclosure. During pre-foreclosure the trustee appointed by the bank, usually a local attorney, prepares for a foreclosure.  The trustee makes every reasonable effort to contact the homeowners and let them know about the upcoming foreclosure.  This can be done by posting the Notice of Default on their property, sending it in the mail and also placing it in the classifieds of the local newspapers.  The trustee may also call the homeowner to see if they can work out payment arrangements to get the mortgage back on track. If the mortgage loan isn’t brought up to date in this 3 month period the trustee files a Notice of Sale with the County Recorder’s Office.  This Notice of Sale is also posted at the homeowner’s property and placed in the local newspaper classifieds.

Goes to Court

Some states require that the Bank go to court and sue the homeowner for their property as part of the foreclosure process.  This process can further lengthen the pre-foreclosure period which is a good thing in short sale investing.  The short sale process can be a little lengthy itself, so the more time you have to put together a deal, the better. The bank’s trustee will have to notify the homeowners of the upcoming court date and ask that they show up.  However, many homeowners fail to show up in court to fight for their property.  This can be because they are ashamed or afraid.  Some don’t know the laws very well and could even be concerned that they’ll be arrested for a bad debt. If the homeowner presents a good case in court or even if the homeowners just show up and provide their foreclosure information, there is a good chance that the court will provide the homeowners with a few more months to try and catch up their mortgage or make arrangements. The court may also decide to award the property to the bank, especially if this property has gone to court previously or the homeowner doesn’t even show up to state their case.

Foreclosed Property Up for Sale

After the bank forecloses on the property it goes to the Sheriff’s Auction, also known as a Foreclosure Sale or Trustee Sale.  This auction is a part of the foreclosure process and can be anywhere from a few weeks to several months from the time the bank has foreclosed on the property. There are several different popular methods for holding a Sheriff’s Auction, but the most popular is held right on the courthouse steps.  The county clerk auctions of the foreclosures one after the other by property number to the public.  The highest bidder wins that property.  Real estate investors will often use a real estate skip tracing service to find bulk foreclosed properties for sale. The opening bid on each property is often equal to the remaining loan balance that the bank is owed, plus interest accrued and any additional fees associated with the Sheriff’s Auction. At this point, short sale investing is bunk.  If you still want that property you’ll need to wear the hat of a foreclosure investor and get right in there with the bidding.

After the Sheriff’s Sale

If no one bids high enough to meet what the bank sets on the foreclosed property it is purchased by the bank’s trustee and becomes a bank owned property.  It is called, ‘Real Estate Owned’ or REO at this point and usually sits on the banks portfolio until the bank can get it sold to a post-foreclosure investor. If an investor bids on the property and wins it they are winning the Trustee’s Deed to the property.  They become the owner and can do with the property as they wish. Sometimes the homeowners may still be living in the property after it is sold at auction in the foreclosure process.  In this case the new owner may wish to work out a rental agreement with the homeowners, or ask the homeowners to leave.  If the homeowners refuse then the new owner must evict them. The owner can file an eviction notice with the country sheriff to start the foreclosure process and usually within 4-6 weeks the sheriff comes out to forcibly evict the former homeowners.  However, this happens several months to a year after the bank sent the home into pre-foreclosure.  Most homeowners have plenty of time to make other arrangements and have either left or are in the process of leaving when the property is sold at auction. The foreclosure process is a lengthy one, but it provides lots of time for short sale investing to take place before that sheriff’s auction.

How to Use Skip Tracing to Find Real Estate Deals

As a real estate investor, you know too well that some of the best deals can be unearthed from vacant or distressed properties. Problem is, sometimes finding the owners of these properties can be like digging up buried treasure without a map—futile at best.

If you have been down this road before, you will admit the usual outreach and marketing strategies most investors employ will rarely work, especially if the owners of these properties have skipped town.

And this is where skip tracing comes in.

What is REI Skip Tracing?

REI Skip tracing is the process of tracking down the whereabouts of a person who has “skipped town” (hence the name).

Typically, the manner of their departure means they left little clues behind as to where they may have gone, which explains the challenge in trying to hunt them down. Good thing is, there are professionals who specialize in this exact kind of work whose services you can hire as you aim to find the owners of these properties.

Known as skip tracers, they work like private investigators, although advancement in technology has allowed them to shift from a Sherlock Holmes-type of approach to one that relies more on modern tools. This involves carrying out an in-depth search through multiple databases holding information that is not normally available to the public.

The harder it is to find the homeowner, the higher your chances of success are in that deal. This is due to the obvious reason that no other interested buyer has managed to establish contact with that homeowner, which means your chances of getting them to sell you the property are pretty bright.

Skip tracing normally involves taking that extra step in your search for abandoned property owners. But you might want to take heart in the fact that not many investors engage in skip tracing—they either do not want to or are unwilling to invest the time and resources it takes to find these property owners.

That can only be good news, especially at a time when competition for these hot properties has never been tougher.

How to Skip Trace

Skip tracing is a basic, but very effective concept to find property owners. The whole idea behind it is to get an alternate address for abandoned or vacant property owners whom you are having trouble finding.

Often the case, absentee property owners don’t leave behind details of their new address so it is virtually impossible to find them listed in the phonebook. However, in the event they left a forwarding address with the NCOA (National Change of Address), there is a way you can track them down.

Usually, the USPS is not obligated to furnish you with the forwarding address of a person you are trying to locate, no matter how valid your reasons may be. They only release these details to law enforcement officers, licensed private investigators, or any other entity under orders of the court.

All the same, there is a technique you can use to get an absentee homeowner’s new address. All you need to do is mail them and specify the following information on the envelope:

By including this information on your letter, the post office will not forward it, but rather return it back to you with a sticker bearing the new address.

Supposing details of the vacant property owner cannot be found in the USPS change-of-address file, what do you do?

Skip Tracing Services

In such cases, you will need to sign up for a skip tracing service. Fortunately, there are a number of companies who offer this service, and a quick search on your search engine of choice will yield multiple options.

The best skip tracing services, as with everything else in life, tend to be more expensive. Before you sign up for the first program that catches your eye, it is good to evaluate the value of this expense to your business first.

Sometimes, you find that a simple search engine or social network search can bear pertinent information about the homeowner you are trying to find. So, first see what you can come up with on your own before opting for the paid service if you cannot find what you are looking for.

Real Estate Skip Tracing Tactics

Tools and techniques to Help you find the owner of a vacant property 

Some real estate owners are tough to find and believe it or not, that’s a good thing! You see if they’re hard to find that means that most if not all other real estate wholesalers and investors will give up looking for them if they even try at all. Now I’ll admit it can be frustrating if you don’t know where to look but never fear. I’ve put together this real estate skip tracing page to help walk you through the process.
Below I’ll walk you through the tools, techniques and websites that can help you find those hidded property owners, but first lets answer the question:

What is Real Estate Skip Tracing?

Real Estate Skip Tracing is the process of locating a property owner’s whereabouts. “Skip Tracing” is the process of performing this task, which may be done by an investor, wholesaler or it can be performed by an independent skip tracing company. The term “skip” (as a noun) refers to the person being searched for and is derived from the idiomatic expression “to skip town,” meaning to depart (perhaps in a rush), leaving minimal clues behind to “trace” the “skip” to a new location.
​Now that we’ve defined real estate skip tracing let’s move on to the techniques, tools, and websites that will help in your efforts.

Using Skip Tracing With Motor Vehicle Records Search (MVR)

Using Skip Tracing With Motor Vehicle Records Search (MVR)

Do you need to find the owner of a vehicle, his or her address or registration/lien holder information? By using  a skip tracing service, the online search gives you instant access to 34 states of MVR data and can be searched by VIN, license plate number, owner name or address.

A situation may occur when a person “skips town” and moves to an unknown location to avoid having his vehicle repossessed, in this case it can  be very difficult to locate the car.  When running a “skip trace” for a repo, it’s important to acquire as much information about the person and keep track of  it, whether it may seem important or not. Knowing whether the person is married or not, where his family lives  can give you that final address or car location you need to repossess the vehicle. When you need to run an Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) skip trace we recommend BST.

BST Provides instant results for all of the states below:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Texas
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Nebraska
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

*States are subject to change

MVR Results can include:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Current and Previous Plate Number
  • Registrant Details
  • Vehicle Descriptions
  • Lien Holder Information

Finding Off Market Real Estate Deals – How to Skip Trace

Skip Tracing for Real Estate Leads

Some of the best real estate deals are those considered off market. These are motivated private sellers who do not have a real estate agent representing them. Skip Tracing companies provide a method of obtaining a large amount of phone numbers based certain data submitted for skip tracing.

When a real estate transaction happens, the buyer and seller’s address is recorded at the county which becomes public record. This information becomes very valuable when searching for real estate leads. The problem is, only the names and addresses are recorded which means the only way you can contact them is by sending a letter via direct mail.

A real estate skip tracing service takes a bulk amount of address and names normally submitted in a spreadsheet and traces that data to find phone numbers. Once the data has been located, the spreadsheet is returned to the customer giving them the phone numbers of every lead.

It is wise to stay away from any free skip trace services as they are not very good. One of the most reliable real estate skip tracing service is Batch Skip Tracing based in Phoenix, Arizona. Their data is of the highest quality and often is delivered within 24 hours from receiving your list. What makes BST one of the best skip tracing service is their responsive customer service.

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If you are considering a list stacking platform, we recommend Batch Lead Stacker.

Police nab 2 people in central Arkansas deaths; missing 6-year-old found with suspect

Sherwood police arrested two people and are searching for a third in connection with the killings of a woman and a man found dead Friday morning in Sherwood and in the disappearance of a 6-year-old boy, a news release said.

Napoleon Haire Jr., 33, and Brandi Beth Purtle, 20, were arrested Friday on charges related to the death of Steve K. Lutman and Britney Alyse Belle, Sherwood police Sgt. Scott Hicks said in a news release Friday evening.

Police are also searching for Gabrielle Marie Hill, 26, and have requested that anyone with information about Hill’s whereabouts contact the Sherwood Police Department. Police did not specify why they were searching for Hill.

Haire faces charges of capital murder, aggravated robbery, theft of property and endangering the welfare of a minor. Purtle is charged with endangering the welfare of a minor and hindering apprehension.

Officers responded just before 5 a.m. Friday to 103 Markhaven Drive after a neighbor asked police officers to check on the residents there, a news release said.

Officers found Belle lying in the driveway in front of the one-story home and Lutman inside the residence. Both were pronounced dead shortly after. Police did not specify how the two were killed.

Lutman lives at the Markhaven residence, the release said. Belle was from Beebe.

A 6-year-old boy, Julian Boyd, was reported missing about an hour after officers discovered the bodies.

An Amber Alert issued around 8 a.m. said authorities believed the boy was traveling with Haire. The alert said authorities believed Haire was armed and dangerous.

Around 2 p.m., Pulaski County sheriff’s office spokesman Mitch McCoy said undercover narcotics officers near the Quality Inn & Suites at 500 W. 29th St. spotted Haire’s vehicle in a parking lot. McCoy said the officers were in plain clothes and waited until uniformed North Little Rock officers with a K-9 arrived before approaching the vehicle.

Officers arrested Haire without incident and retrieved Julian, who was unharmed, a release said.

Sherwood police Capt. Jeff Hagar said that although the child’s disappearance and the double homicide are connected, he could not detail how the two are connected.

Sherwood police are handling the investigation of the double homicide and the child’s disappearance.

A man who lives near 103 Markhaven Drive said he was awakened by sirens early Friday morning.

“They covered the bodies and everything, so we didn’t know who it was,” said the man, who did not wish to give his name. “They did CPR for like 30 minutes, but when they didn’t put the bodies in the ambulance we knew it was going to be a crime scene.”

The man, who lives down the street from the taupe, one-story home, said he didn’t know his neighbors but knew they’d recently filed for divorce.

Kerry Lutman, in whose name the home was purchased in 2015 according to property records, filed for divorce from Lutman in December. Court records indicate the two stopped living together in September, and that they have a minor child with the initials “J.L.”

The neighbor said he was surprised and worried about the killings. Sherwood’s only homicide in 2019 was Dec. 21 when Carson Gregory Glover, 19, was arrested on charges of killing his mother, Sonya Glover.

“Was it a random break-in? A relationship thing?” the neighbor said. “I mean, if someone’s just breaking into people’s houses at like 4 a.m., that’s scary.”

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Haire was on probation at the time of his arrest Friday, and court records show Haire has a long criminal history.

Haire was arrested in April 2018 on a charge of third-degree domestic battery. The charge was nolle prossed.

He negotiated a guilty plea to second-degree battery and violating a domestic order of protection in May 2017 and was sentenced to five years’ probation after beating a man with a baseball bat in front of children, according to court records and previous reports.

In 2016, he was arrested on charges of tampering with physical evidence and negotiated a guilty plea for 60 months’ probation, court records show.

In 2016 he pleaded nolo contendre to 2013 charges of aggravated assault and theft of property, records show.

In 2012, he faced multiple charges for repeatedly punching the mother of his three children, according to court record and previous reporting.

Purtle’s only previous charges besides traffic tickets were a theft of property charge at 18, to which she pleaded nolo contendre, and a disorderly conduct charge she pleaded guilty to in Nov. 2018.

Hill has been arrested on drug possession, distribution or paraphernalia charges more than 11 times in the past 5 years.

Sherwood police investigate the scene of a double homicide Friday on Markhaven Drive in Sherwood. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe) 

Metro on 01/04/2020

Australia fires: death toll rises and six people missing as PM calls in military

Two more bushfire deaths on Kangaroo Island, in remote South Australia, have brought to 23 the number of people killed in fires across Australia this fire season, with six people still missing in fire-affected regions across New South Wales and Victoria.

On Saturday, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced his government would send Australia’s largest warship, HMAS Adelaide, to help evacuation efforts from towns on the Victorian coast cut-off by fires, compulsorily call up 3,000 army reservists to assist in fire recovery, and put $20m towards leasing four more water-bombing aircraft.

Morrison has faced acute criticism over his government’s inaction over the bushfires, some of which have been burning since September, and over his government’s climate change policies, criticised as unambitious and ineffective in reducing emissions.

Fanned by strong, changeable winds, temperatures above 40C and widespread drought conditions, some of the more than 200 fires are burning so powerfully they are forming their own weather systems, even causing lightning strikes sparking new blazes, through pyrocumulonimbus clouds.

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, warned the state faced a “very volatile situation” and that “we are yet to hit the worst of it”. The state’s transport minister, Andrew Constance, defending his own home against ember attack, told ABC radio “this isn’t a bushfire, it’s an atomic bomb”.

The bodies of the two people, identified as Dick Lang, 78, a bush pilot and safari operator, and his son Clayton, 43, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, were found after fire burned through more than half of Kangaroo Island. The bodies were found inside a burned-out car on a highway. The fast-moving fire front appeared to have overrun the vehicle while the occupants were fleeing.

“It has been absolutely devastating,” the Kangaroo Island mayor, Michael Pengilly, told the ABC. “The north coast looks like it has been hit by a nuclear bomb. You can’t stop this thing at the moment, it’s bloody impossible.”Bushfire tornado tears through Kangaroo Island in South Australia – video

Australia’s two most populous states, NSW and Victoria, have had their east coasts devastated by massive out-of-control fires that have destroyed more than 1,500 homes and claimed 23 lives so far. That number is predicted to rise.

Six people remain missing but this figure is down from 28. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes.

The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, said on Saturday that 148 fires were burning across the state, 12 of which were at emergency warning alert level.

Victoria’s Emergency Management commissioner, Andrew Crisp, said there were 53 fires across the state, with the vast majority of those in the eastern half of the state. Thirteen fires were at “emergency warning” level.

There were also current fire warnings in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

A sense of anxiety gripped NSW on Saturday, as the gruelling long-running catastrophe of the bushfire season rolled on.

“Right here, we are the meat in the sandwich,” the RFS divisional commander, Mark Coombes, began a shift briefing of new volunteer firefighters at Nowra, on the NSW south coast, “so thanks for coming down”.

The southerly is going to hit … What it’s going to do I have no fucking idea.RFS commander Mark Coombes

Ringed by fire to the north and south – with flames 40 metres high, running through forest that hadn’t burned in decades – the crews of volunteer and professional firefighters prepared for the fourth, and in forecast most serious, of the extreme days the state had faced already this summer.

“The southerly is going to hit around 9pm, 9.30pm and unfortunately you’re the ones that [have to] deal with it,” Coombes said. “What it’s going to do I have no fucking idea.”

His info was off by about 90 minutes, and the southerly roared through the base with reported gusts up to 101 km/h, whipping up dirt and dust and ash, and filling the briefing room with smoke.

On the outskirts of Adaminaby, a village of about 300 people in the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW, an acrid smoke turned the sky black by mid-afternoon and mud, dirt and ash rained from the sky while a small crew of volunteer firefighters fought two blazes approaching the town from the north and west.

The Adaminaby Complex fire – which split into two sections – was one of five fires burning at an emergency warning level in the Snowy Mountains region and which cut electricity to large parts of the state.

Glen Squire, the captain of the local Rural Fire Service brigade, told the Guardian his small crew of volunteers had been working for weeks to protect the town. But properties further into a dense forest of mountain ash trees were “undefendable”.

“We’ve been trying to get people out there to leave for a while but some of them have stayed, I wouldn’t want to be there,” he said.

Morrison said on Saturday that fire authorities were “well-prepared, well-organised and well-resourced” but governments, fire crews and communities needed to be realistic and understand that some blazes would not be able to be stopped.

“These fire conditions are unprecedented and the challenge is formidable,” he said. “If fierce conditions prevail, today could be a dark day for our country.”

Morrison warned that, with no substantial rain forecast, the fires could burn for weeks, beyond the capability of fire crews to control or extinguish.

“This length of season is, of course, in many senses, unprecedented, but the ferocity and the absence of dousing rains that would normally bring a season like this under greater control is nowhere in sight and so that means a much longer season is planned for.”

The compulsory call-up of army reserve troops to help bushfire-hit towns across the country survive the ongoing bushfire crisis and recover from its impacts is the first in Australia’s history.

Soldiers will provide “civil aid, humanitarian assistance, medical or civil emergency or disaster relief”, the defence minister said in her order to troops.

The governor general formally called up the defence force reservists for an open-ended commitment from Saturday “until revoked”.

The Australian Defence Force will also provide accommodation to families who have lost their homes on defence force bases.

National capital Canberra and the outer western Sydney suburb of Penrith both broke temperature records on Saturday that had stood for 80 years.

The temperature reached 48.9C in Penrith and 44C in Canberra on Saturday afternoon, the hottest temperatures recorded in those areas.