Scaddan farmers face grain recovery issue

26 Nov, 2015 01:00 AM
Bradd and Mykala Vermeersch with their eight-month-old son George in front of grain that was stored in silo bags before they melted off in the fire.
Bradd and Mykala Vermeersch with their eight-month-old son George in front of grain that was stored in silo bags before they melted off in the fire.

LAST Tuesday's fire has presented a challenge of a different kind for Scaddan farmers Bradd Vermeersch and family.

He is still reeling from the loss of his close friend and footy team mate Kym Curnow and the near loss of his family home, which was saved only by the heroic efforts of local volunteer firefighters.

But Bradd's main focus is on how to pick up the Baudin barley in sausage-like piles that was left after the silo bags it was in melted in the fire.

Sixteen silo bags had been filled to capacity with an estimated $1 million worth of the grain during what was proving to be a record harvest.

In appearance it's as if someone has backed a truck up, opened the tail gate and let the grain funnel out the back while slowly driving forward.

The valuable grain, while mostly not visibly burnt or damaged, is sitting in the open in a paddock that looks more like a desert than valuable cropping land.

"We found a bit of it smouldering so had to get in with a shovel and dig it out, but mostly it seems okay," Bradd said.

"The crop was going 4-4.5 tonnes a hectare, half to malting and half to feed so we are hoping we will at least be able to get it through as feed.

"We're organising to get a special pick-up machine with a v-auger system down from Perth this week."

Bradd said they lost 4000 hectares of stubble, but considered himself luckier than many who lost so much standing crop.

"That fire was just so incredibly intense even in stubble," he said.

While he believes nothing could have stopped Tuesday's fire once it took hold, Bradd said the lack of communication was and still is a major issue in the region.

"People didn't know where the fire was or what was happening. Relatives didn't know if loved ones were safe, it was terrible,'' he said.

"Our system is bad at the best of times but in times of emergency good phone contact is critical.

"I've heard you can get emergency towers so I don't know why they're not being brought here.

"We are big contributors to the economy running multi-million dollar businesses out here and I'm sure similar sized businesses in Perth wouldn't stand for such a lack of phone service.

"During harvest we employ 15 full and part-time staff and we need to be able to talk to them wherever they are."

Bradd said they had installed six boosters at a cost of $1000 each on their property and while it helped it was not the answer.

"Nothing could have stopped the fire last week but if we could have rung ahead and warned people we could have saved a lot of pain, suffering and loss," he said.



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