One home, 2000 livestock lost to bushfires


One home, 2000 livestock lost to bushfires

17 December 2014

published bywww.brisbanetimes.com


 Australia — Bob Derrick used to spend hours in his workshop. A builder and a farmer, the 72-year-old is a good hand at both building and fixing things.

And for a few short years, Mr Derrick and his wife Jane lived in the shed, while he built their new home just a few metres away high on the hill overlooking the sweeping plains of Boweya, 26 east kilometres of Wangaratta..

A fast-moving fire smashed the couple’s farm late on Tuesday, burning about half the 1100 acre property. It advanced to within just metres of the home, which Mr Derrick successfully defended. But while the house was saved, the Derrick’s workshop/shed was left a pile of twisted iron and rubble.

Inside the shed were a wide range of things including tools, equipment, bicycles and even photographs, Mr Derrick recounted on Wednesday as he stood beside the rubble.

“It was a bit scary when the shed went up. And I had no back-up when the fire went through. But as soon as the fire went through a back-up crew came in. And I was very glad to see them,” he said.

“I love the shed and I still do. I spent a lot of time in there, being my workshop and what have you. I enjoyed our time in the shed, but I much prefer living in the house,” he said with a smile.

Mrs Derrick, who was not on the farm but in nearby Wangaratta as the fire hit, recalled a series of anxious telephone conversations she had with her husband as the fire advanced. One conversation went like this: “He said ‘The shed’s burnt to the ground, I’m just going to try to save the house, don’t come home – goodbye.’ I just didn’t know what to think – I was terrified. I was probably more frightened than (Bob),” she said.

As a measure of how close the fire got to the house, Mrs Derrick pointed to trees just a few metres away from the home. They were still standing, but are totally blackened and look skeletal.

As the couple spoke the noise of a chainsaw cutting up fallen and burnt timber rung out across the farm. Many burnt trees have also fallen across local roads. And not far from the end of the Derrick’s driveway, the body of a burnt koala lies twisted on the gravel.

Worse news was to come, this time for residents south of Euroa as news filtered out on Wednesday afternoon that one home had been burnt in the rural locality of Gooram in the Creightons Creek fire.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, police were preparing 120 residents living in the Creightons Creek area to evacuate, with the prestigious stables of horse trainer David Hayes told to remains on high alert.

They were among four fires still burning in the north-east out of a state that had experienced 350 fires, mostly caused by lightning and fuelled by winds exceeding 60 kilometres per hour, since Monday. Thousands of hectares of farmland most likely destroyed hundreds of kilometres of fences and killed an estimated 2000 head of livestock. The four fires still going as of late Wednesday afternoon were:

A 3500 hectare grass fire at Stewarton, north of Benalla.

The 6500 hectare Longwood fire south of Euroa.

The 5200 hectare fire that started from Lake Rowan near Wangaratta and threatened homes at Boweya.

A 3500 hectare grass fire at Stewarton, north of Benalla.

The 6500 hectare Longwood fire south of Euroa.

The 5200 hectare fire that started from Lake Rowan near Wangaratta and threatened homes at Boweya.

And the 120 hectare fire at West Wodonga that firefighters stopped from reaching homes just six kilometres away.

Emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley said Thursday was a “spike day”, carrying a very high fire danger rating for the state’s north-east, west and central regions.

“We said it would be a long, dry, hot summer and that’s proving to be the case,” he said.
 


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