As I sat here last week putting together a post about the heat, little did I know a disaster was unfolding on our rural block. We watched a storm skirt the edge of our farm on the weather radar on Monday 20th but we knew we didn't get any rain. What we didn't know was that it was a dry storm and lightening sparked a blaze which gained momentum overnight into Tuesday. When the wind picked up Tuesday lunchtime, it exploded.
Our block was directly in its path and we were two and a half hours away at our day jobs. The buildings were saved by a neighbour but the rest, including our historic stockyards, weren't so lucky. We feel incredibly lucky the damage is primarily cosmetic, with no loss of life and none of our neighbours lost homes despite the fire burning out over 2200 hectares. The loss of the stockyards has hit us the hardest. It was one of the prettiest features of the block - completely useless to put stock in, but gorgeous to look at.
Our cattle are not yet fully accounted for, but we've seen most of them. We suspect some have taken to the roads to meet up with other cattle who have been similarly liberated by the widespread loss of fencing. Our gate was open for nearly 24 hours as the firefront went through - letting our cattle out and other cattle in. We'll be heading back out to search for them on the weekend.
We're treating the fire as a learning experience and agree we'll be much better prepared next time. Some of the things we learned:
- Our firebreaks near the fences were good, but should have been grader-width to allow the grader to scrape out a firebreak. I see more clearing in my near future, after the fencing is fixed.
- Our firebreaks around the sheds didn't save them, but it did make defending them much easier.
- We didn't have a plan in place for caring for our dogs during the emergency, which meant I was side-lined from fire fighting to supervise them. Mr Greene had to go in alone, leaving me two and a half hours away with two dogs and no car. This is a priority for us to sort out, as we realised if we'd been on the block at the time, we also didn't have a plan for the dogs.
This same week, one year ago, we were flooded onto the block after an ex-cyclone crossed the coast and dumped a year's worth of rain in two days. Fires, we learned, are a much quicker disaster than floods. We were out fixing fencing within 12 hours, whereas with floods you need to wait for the water to go down, which can take weeks. We now have temporary (and slightly dodgy) fencing all the way around the block and are back at our day jobs for a bit of a reprieve.
In all the rush of this last week, I completely missed the Australia Day celebrations. So happy Australia Day all - I hope you had a great day.