Farmers fight fires that burnt 264,000ha

Farmers fight fires that burnt 264,000ha

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Working to control a bushfire on a neighbouring property almost proved costly for Ken Graham, Hyden, last week when the fire spread and came within 100 metres of his home.

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Lightning strikes east of Hyden last week sparked bushfires  one of which burnt out 500 hectares of fenced and stubbles on Ken Graham's property. Photograph by Ken Graham.

Lightning strikes east of Hyden last week sparked bushfires one of which burnt out 500 hectares of fenced and stubbles on Ken Graham's property. Photograph by Ken Graham.

WORKING to control a bushfire on a neighbouring property almost proved costly for Ken Graham, Hyden, last week when the fire spread and came within 100 metres of his home.

Mr Graham said he "was in control of the fire (where he was) and couldn't leave" to stop it from burning 500 hectares of stubbles and timber fences on his property.

"It burnt our feedlot out, which had 30 sheep in it at the time," Mr Graham said.

The sheep survived - along with 650 more in the yards next to it - which had been yarded for drafting the day before.

"When the fires started we were about to draft the sheep, so they were still there from the day before," he said.

Mr Graham said he had been fighting the fires east of Hyden on the Norseman Road since February 6 after thunderstorms crossed the area with lightning strikes hitting, two to three kilometres apart, which started the fires on Crown land.

"They started last Thursday and they are still burning," he said.

"Hopefully we don't see another one for 20 years.

"The last fire we had was in 1994, 26 years ago."

The fires had a front of 50 kilometres.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services said 120 emergency services volunteers and farmer response firefighters had attended the fires, which had burnt out 264,000ha from Ravensthorpe in the south to South Yilgarn in the north.

Mr Graham said fire and emergency units had arrived from "everywhere" to assist, as well as farm firefighting units from as far away as South Yilgarn, Narembeem, Hyden, Holt Rock and Forrestania.

Those fighting the fires had been working in "horrendous conditions" above 40 degrees Celsius, according to Colin Nicholl, Hyden.

The fires were made worse by strong winds on the weekend which made it hard to control as it was travelling so fast.

One farmer was reportedly burnt on the arm when the fire crept up on him from behind while he had his arm out the window of his ute.

Mr Graham said the wind had pushed the fire north east toward South Yilgarn, so those who came to help from there returned to fight it there.

"We lost fences, pasture and stubbles - not everyone in the area has sheep, there are also full time croppers," he said.

Mr Graham said he runs 2000 Merino ewes, with crossbred and wether lambs.

He destocked 650 head last week, which he sent to Katanning, some for live export and others for slaughter.

Some underweight lambs would be agisted until they reached slaughter weight.

He said it would "ease some pressure" on his operation now that so much had been lost to the fire.

Mr Graham said he was really grateful to some locals who delivered a truckload of 25 hay bales to help him out with feed for his stock.

He said the dry conditions in the Kondinin shire had forced him to cart water for his livestock for the whole of January after his dams ran dry in December.

"The shire has not declared water deficiency but there's just no water," he said.

Firefighters saved an estimated 203 buildings in the Katanning area, including 43 homes, after a fire burnt 4000ha along a 47km perimeter last week, however one house was destroyed and two others sustained damage.

Rural fencing and several outbuildings were also lost.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the fire, that started last Friday, was stationary and fire crews were back burning this week to contain it.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

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