Book helps farmers after tragic fires

A local grower group has released a book providing helpful lessons for others who may be affected by bushfires in the future.

The book is comprised of nine case studies, conducted by South East Premium Wheat Growers’ Association (SEPWA), on farms damaged by fires near Esperance.

The devastating bushfires tore through the region in November 2015, travelling 70 kilometres and burning more than 130,000 hectares.  

The fires also destroyed property, livestock and burnt machinery to the ground.

SEPWA president Greg Curnow said it became clear soon after the fires that there was limited information available to support farmers in their decision making.

“Managers who suddenly found they had to regenerate their burnt paddocks during the middle of harvest were lucky to have good soil moisture and so sowing cover was one option,” Mr Curnow said.

“Because of the scale of the fires which burnt more than 130,000 hectare of farm land, all forms of soil types were burnt.

“From higher rainfall, sandier soils on the coast and around Scaddan, through to heavier Mallee clays at Cascade.

“So there was a lot of different work done in the region – depending on each person’s situation.

“One thing I can say in hindsight though is that so long as you are well insured, it is almost certainly not as bad as it looks and it’s amazing how fast farming land will recover.

“The book shows that some people did a lot to re-generate their soils, through cultivation and planting cover crops. 

“Others chose to go on a holiday and not look at the paddocks until the weeds  grew back to provide stability from wind erosion.”

Published by SEPWA, “Settling the Dust” was partly funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Mr Curnow had 800ha of his farm at Grass Patch burnt, but it was the loss of his uncle, that was the real tragedy for him and many others.

He said the book also provides information and tools to help people recover emotionally from such an event. 

Mr Curnow’s uncle, Kym (Freddy) Curnow, tragically perished it the blaze that swept through the region. 

He was one of four people who died during the blaze at Scaddan, that was the real tragedy for him and many others.

Mr Curnow said the 12 months following that day had been the hardest of his life.

“Probably the best piece of advice I can give is to make sure you spend plenty of time with family and friends after suffering such an ordeal,” he said. 

“And if you have to work hard to sort things out, make sure you still take time to do the things you love.

“The thing that was clear was that there were plenty of options and not one solution could fit all.”

He said possibly the biggest lesson learnt since the fires was to accept help and look out for each other.  

To download the book visit www.sepwa.org.au.