PERTH - A West Australian police officer, whose use of an angle grinder allegedly ignited a bushfire which raged through the Perth hills district destroying 72 homes, has been charged.

The 56-year-old man who lives in the area, was charged by summons with carrying out an activity in the open air that causes or is likely to cause a bushfire.

The charges followed an investigation by the arson squad into allegations the Roleystone man's use of an angle grinder on a trailer set fire to grass and caused the blaze.

Gusting winds quickly spread Sunday's fire which eventually ripped through Kelmscott and neighbouring Roleystone forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.

A total fire ban was in place in the area at the time, barring any lighting of fires or use of tools such as angle grinders in the open air.

On Wednesday morning (WST) WA police spokesman Bill Munnee said it was of concern that the officer, who was on leave at the time, could not been found.

"We have contacted all family members and friends and we are pretty confident we will get hold of him," Inspector Munnee said.

"I believe he is just shattered and devastated and he's probably just taking time out to reflect on a few things."

He said he didn't think the officer would "contemplate the worst".

By Wednesday afternoon, it was confirmed police had spoken to the officer and he was summonsed to appear at Armadale Magistrates Court on March 15.

Under the Bushfire Act, the man could face a maximum penalty of $25,000 or 12 months in jail.

Late on Wednesday, the fire had finally been contained and the last of the evacuees allowed back to their properties, some just to inspect smouldering ruins.

Some residents have complained that phone alerts sent through the StateAlert emergency warning system arrived too late for them to prepare to defend their homes or evacuate with cherished belongings.

The fire started at around 11.45am (WST) on Sunday but alerts were not issued until 1.50pm.

The Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) has defended the timing, saying the fire had been contained just after midday but strong wind gusts whipped it up again and it jumped containment lines.

FESA spokesman Allen Gale said the fire started near homes in swirling, gusty winds and there was a lot of vegetation around.

"It's an ongoing dilemma of living in a high risk bushfire area and knowing that one day there's a possibility your home could be lost."

There has also been criticism that not enough controlled burn-offs of bushland in the area had been done.

Department of Environment and Conservation Fire Management Services manager Murray Carter said a prescribed burn was carried out in the Banyowla Regional Park four years ago but none were scheduled last winter.

"It has its own set of complications in that rugged terrain.

"But it's not an area we avoid."

Mr Carter said the department's research scientists would examine the fire's behaviour and assess the effect of the last prescribed burn.

He said it was very difficult to do controlled burns close to houses.

"To put in a burn where houses are right up against the bush, you do run the risk of burning the houses down yourself.

"There's no margin of error. You have to have everything in your favour."

Residents also did not appreciate smoke going through their properties, Mr Carter said.

City of Armadale mayor Linton Reynolds said the city's two volunteer fire brigades had a strong interest in ensuring prescribed burns were carried out in the area's parks and reserves.

"I extended the burning season by two weeks for our fire brigades to help them complete their burns."

Mr Reynolds said there would be reviews to see if any lessons could be learnt from the fire.

The state opposition's emergency services spokeswoman Margaret Quirk has called for an independent inquiry to examine WA's ability to prevent and fight dangerous bushfires.

"An inquiry is not about directing blame, it's about ensuring world's best practice is applied to cope with the increased risk."

Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson said reviews were conducted after every major fire and FESA called in experts from other states to report on the fire and evaluate WA's firefighting capabilities.

- AAP