Fire devastates Wilmington farms

Fire devastates Wilmington farms

12 January 2012

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Australia — THE clean-up after the bushfire which roared through the Wilmington district late last week destroying more than 8000 hectares is well under way as farmers count the costs of dead stock, damaged fences and lost grazing land.

More than 700 sheep were killed as a result of the fires in the Wilmington and Spear Creek districts.

This week, farmers have had the heartbreaking task of putting down sheep and trying to treat some burnt stock, pinning their hopes on the fact they may pull through and provide a breeding base to start again.

The fire – which started by spontaneous combustion in a rubbish tip at Horrock’s Pass near Wilmington last Wednesday – escaped initial containment lines, burning uncontrolled north east of the town for three days before light rains on Saturday helped firefighting crews extinguish the front.

Crews are still monitoring burning trees and the fire ground to ensure flare-ups do not start another fire in adjacent country.

Fanned by strong, gusty winds, the fire threatened evacuation of Wilmington and raised concerns it could get into the Mount Remarkable National Park.

This week, local volunteers are continuing mop-up operations with Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Country Fire Service teams.

The Voigt family had all of their property – including neighbouring land they leased – burnt out.

Ray Voigt – whose sons Michael and Stephen run the farming operation – said 2430 hectares were burnt and about 220 sheep so far had died in the blaze or had to be put down.

“We got out as many as we could find,” he said. “The loss of stock is devastating. A lot of time and effort goes in to keeping sheep, and you can’t afford to lose them.”

He said the worst part was loss of old blue gum and box trees.

“About 30 per cent of the old trees have gone,” he said. “They have taken 500 years to grow and they are irreplaceable. We won’t see them grow back in our lifetimes.”

This week Michael was trying to treat about 70 burnt sheep – mainly ewes – with antibiotics on their hooves and burns, in the hope they may pull through to become breeding stock. The remaining 800 sheep have been agisted at Carrieton and Peterborough.

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