Christmas fires keep farmers on edge

Christmas fires keep farmers on edge

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Water bombers worked hard to put out flames in low visibility at a fire that started in the Pinjarrega Nature Reserve, 13 kilometres west of Coorow. Photo: Jenny McDonald.

Water bombers worked hard to put out flames in low visibility at a fire that started in the Pinjarrega Nature Reserve, 13 kilometres west of Coorow. Photo: Jenny McDonald.

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One of the bushfires, still burning in the shire of Jerramungup, has claimed 10,236ha of land so far.

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SUMMER storms and lightning caused fires that burnt a total of 10,500 hectares in Coorow and Bremer Bay over the Christmas period.

One of the bushfires, still burning in the shire of Jerramungup, has claimed 10,236ha of land so far in a stretch of coastline between Bremer Bay and Boxwood Hill.

The fire, which started almost two weeks ago on December 20, was the result of a lightning strike.

The fire is still burning within containment lines according to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) with fire crews still active on the ground.

A bushfire advice was still active on Monday bounded by Borden-Bremer Bay Road to the north, Dillon Bay Road to the east, the coastline to the south and Millers Point Road to the west in parts of Bremer Bay and Boxwood Hill.

DFES said smoke will be present and drivers are urged to take caution and be aware of their surroundings.

Bremer Bay Volunteer Emergency Services captain John Iffla said there had been minimal damage to farm land with about 40ha burnt.

“It has mainly been our coastal bushlands between the beach and the farm land,” Mr Iffla said.

“It has calmed down now and local brigades are patrolling fire breaks.”

Mr Iffla said the fire started when a summer storm blew through and about four or five days later it sparked up.

“It has been a huge effort from local brigades especially over the Christmas period,” he said.

“We have had a great amount of support from Great Southern brigades especially Albany.

“Albany had volunteers over Christmas who covered the shifts to give local brigades a break.”

Mr Iffla said they had now established good breaks and hoped the fire could continue to be contained.

“There was a massive risk to farm lands before Christmas but thankfully it has died down now,” he said.

“We have had fantastic support from Parks and Wildlife and the State emergency services.

Farmer Jenny McDonald said the smoke from the fire in the Pinjarrega Nature Reserve near Coorow was so thick and dark due to the amount of green foliage in the reserve. Photo: Jenny McDonald.

Farmer Jenny McDonald said the smoke from the fire in the Pinjarrega Nature Reserve near Coorow was so thick and dark due to the amount of green foliage in the reserve. Photo: Jenny McDonald.

“It has been a huge effort from volunteers and a fantastic result in terms of what has been saved.”

The second storm, which passed through Coorow on Boxing Day, bought the odd bit of lightning to the area with no obvious damage.

But it wasn’t until about noon the next day that locals saw smoke billowing from Pinjarrega Nature Reserve, 13 kilometres west of Coorow.

The fire was quickly attended by local farmers and the Coorow fire brigade which did its best to fight the fire in the rough terrain.

With limited access into the reserve, with the lack of roads and the possibility of being lost, four State water bombers joined the fight from the sky.

Parks and Wildlife and DFES also helped to fight the blaze.

After looking at the wind direction and the fire path the decision was made to wait on a nearby property for the front to hit.

Local Jenny McDonald said her property, which borders the nature reserve, was in the line of the fire.

“We had to move 1000 sheep from the paddock which borders it because for some reason the sheep just wanted to walk towards the fire,” Ms McDonald said.

“The fence which separated us from the fire was damaged and we also had some spot fires in the canola.”

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Ms McDonald said it was frightening to just sit and wait for the fire to come through to the property before they could start to fight it.

“If it had got to a wheat stubble it would’ve been bad,” she said.

“The potential was there for it to go further so we are lucky.”

If the fire had continued around the property it would have posed a massive risk to the remaining nature reserve and several other farms.

Luckily only 330 hectares of reserve was burnt which Ms McDonald said was only a small portion of the area.

“I would just like to thank everybody for their efforts,” she said.

“The response was fantastic and some teams came from as far as Perth to help put this fire out.”

Ms McDonald said she would also like to thank the water bombers because without them the outcome may have been a lot worse.

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