Fears for summer ahead a year on from ferocious bushfires
A CATTLE farming family are still picking up the pieces a year on from a massive bushfire which ripped through their property and damaged fencing at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.
The Buckhams at Callemondah in Tarome saved their home but their property was burnt out and they lost about six-and-a-half km of fencing with a lot more compromised.
They also lost a horse and two head of cattle.
Locals have been on “red alert” during this fire season and are concerned it could be worse than last season as the temperature keeps rising.
Dick and Cate Buckham credited their tight-knit community for coming together to battle a blaze on a scale they had never seen before in five generations.
“We’re only getting on top of things now,” Dick said.
“(Fencing) is in different states of compromise. Some of it has been repaired and some other stuff we replaced.
“The stuff that was compromised, its life was shortened by 20 or 30 years.
“I haven’t had use of one paddock all season which has been tough.
“We’re in better shape this year, feed wise. It’s nearly just as dry but we’re in better shape than we were.”
About 4km of fence has gone back up and they are negotiating with the government about replacing fencing which borders on the Main Range National Park to the west.
The bushfire last November came roaring at them like “lava flow” coming over Mount Mistake, Cate said.
Dick, who is the Tarome Rural Fire Brigade’s first officer, believed the fire would not have been stopped if it wasn’t for the expertise and actions of local landowners and members of the community.
“It is not to be underestimated, how large the land owner contribution was,” Dick wrote in a submission to the Bushfires Royal Commission.
“The cattlemen having maintained their own breaks in a state of readiness.
“In many places this fire would not have been stopped without the landowners’ expertise, plant and equipment.”
A big fire in 2003, which started in Cunninghams Gap, was mild in comparison.
“I’d never seen anything like the crowning up in trees and the spotting ahead,” Dick said.
“That was really out of the ordinary.
“In 2003 it was only one little place where it crowned momentarily.
“For the most part it was a grass fire in the mountains.
“This thing was crowning and spotting ahead and it was just ferocious.
“The way it came over the top and just fell off the top of the mountain was like something none of us have seen before.”
Dick said things could have ended up much worse than they did, with incredibly dry conditions and strong winds a disastrous combination.
“If we didn’t get our back-burns and get this thing shut down at night time, this thing could have got across Tarome Rd and out into Frazerview and run as far as the (Cunningham Highway),” he said.
“You wouldn’t have got it. It really could have impacted on the greater community to the east and north east.”
Dick believed this summer would be just as dangerous as last year, especially if the area gets a run of heatwaves.
“We had some rain so we have some rough feed now, which stands a fuel,” he said.
“There’s a lot of standing rough feed as opposed to last year when we were very droughted.
“Potentially (a fire) would be harder to stop.
“We’re just in a state of readiness all the time. Our equipment is full and at the ready.
“On those bad fire days we make sure we’re all in the loop to see what crews we’ve got.
“Everyone is on red alert when those days are on us.”
He sad the Tarome Fire Brigade is very close with the Aratula and Rosevale brigades and that bond personified how far the community is willing to go to help whoever needs it.
“We’ve got a lot of respect and appreciation for each other as firefighters and just as people who show up,” he said.
“We’re still overwhelmed by the fact that everyone just arrived at ground zero to get this done (last year).
“They came running.
“They understood the magnitude of it and came and saw and conquered and it was just a magnificent effort.”
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.