A slow recovery from devastating fires

A slow recovery from devastating fires

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A recent Farmers Across Borders hay run to Meekatharra passed through a stretch where the 2015 Scaddan fires ripped through. Four years on and the bushland has started to grow back.

A recent Farmers Across Borders hay run to Meekatharra passed through a stretch where the 2015 Scaddan fires ripped through. Four years on and the bushland has started to grow back.

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IT'S been four years since the Scaddan community and broader Esperance region were devastated by a fatal bushfire in November 2015.

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IT'S been four years since the Scaddan community and broader Esperance region were devastated by a fatal bushfire in November 2015.

While the bushland has started to sprout some green regrowth, it's evident the farmland could take a bit longer to recover.

The emotional trauma caused by the fire and grief from the four people who died - well known Scaddan farmer Kym 'Freddie' Curnow and farmhands Thomas Butcher, Anna Winther and Julia Kohrs-Lichte - may ease but will probably never completely go away.

The fires were sparked by lightning strikes and lasted 11 days.

Local farmer Gavin Egan, a volunteer Scaddan Bush Fire Brigade captain, said the emotional turmoil was "still affecting the community today and probably always will".

"I think time has helped but I don't think anyone will forget what happened," Mr Egan said.

"The community is never going to be the same again."

Mr Egan and his wife Elaine had minor damage to their property with a few hectares and fencing burnt, and he said he felt guilty for such a minimal loss.

They were about a minute away from losing the house they had recently bought, but luckily the wind changed.

Mr Egan said the community fire response had always been good before the fires because "it's just part of what we do as farmers".

"Harvest is a particularly risky time of year for fires so we are always keeping a close eye on things," he said.

"Even now it is still difficult for community members to go and respond to a fire but we all do it because we know we have to."

Mr Egan said the bush has started regrowing with plenty of wattles coming through and new germination of mallee trees, while the farmland has had a slower recovery, which was not helped by the dry conditions over the past 18 months.

"Some people who had a lot of (farmland) country burnt have said they could still tell the difference at this harvest as to where had and hadn't been burnt," he said.

"But they are starting to get some stubble cover back now, so are probably over the worst of it and you would like to think that after three to four good stubbles it would be getting there.

"But I have heard some say that it could take 20 to 30 years for the farmland to fully recover."

The fires destroyed 19 properties and burned more than 300,000ha of land.

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