Counting cost of triple-fire hit

14 Jan, 2016 01:00 AM
The bushfire crossed through Alcoa Wagerup farmlands three times last week, destroying dry pastures and infrastructure.
The bushfire crossed through Alcoa Wagerup farmlands three times last week, destroying dry pastures and infrastructure.

THE bushfire that ripped through the South West last week burnt hundreds of properties including Alcoa's Wagerup farmlands.

Alcoa Farmlands comprises 19,000 hectares of rural landholdings at Pinjarra, Wagerup and Boddington.

About 90 per cent of the 4000ha Wagerup property was destroyed after fire ripped through the dry pastures and farmland on three occasions.

It burnt through the property's western section and hills area on Wednesday night, then the wind changed, causing more damage to the property on Thursday night.

The winds changed again on Friday and flames went across anything left unburnt.

The majority of the fences, buildings and offices were destroyed in the blaze, as well as trees and dry pastures.

Alcoa farmlands farm manager Vaughn Byrd, who is also the Harvey volunteer SES manager and deputy-chief bushfire control officer, said the fire had consumed a lot of farmland.

"At this stage we have had two losses out of a herd of about 7000," he said.

"We are still looking for cattle, but we are confident that we have got them all.

"It is interesting, the cattle remained pretty calm.

"We pre-empted a lot and moved them into safe zones, like the irrigation or short dry pasture land, which worked."

The livestock are now on feed and water, and Alcoa is consolidating the herds and putting up some temporary fences.

"All my office blocks are gone, we lost about 1500 rolls of hay and the farm and employee farmhouses are gone," he said.

"Nearly all the dry land is gone, which leaves us with the irrigation and a small parcel of dry land.

"The sheds remain and we managed to get the machinery out in time."

Mr Byrd said there were reports of up to 145 cattle deaths due to the fire in the area.

As of Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and private veterinarians have reported some livestock deaths, but could not confirm stock losses at this stage, as livestock assessments are still being conducted and access to the area is limited.

DAFWA said it was working closely with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, local industry and shires as part of its emergency response.

Mr Byrd said eight brigades in the shire, with 11 units and two seasonal units, were on the ground at last count.

"They have been going around the clock with crews," he said.

"The temperature drop has made a significant difference."

Information to assist landholders with farm recovery after bushfire is available on DAFWA website, which includes a list of contact numbers for support and assistance.

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

is a senior journalist at Farm Weekly


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