It’s Fire Season

There are terrible fires in South Australia at the moment, we have lost homes and sounds like there is going to be lots more lost before this day is over. I can only imagine what those people are feeling having lived through a property fire myself this time last year. It is hard to imagine unless you have been in one, the terror one feels, I am feeling really anxious about this coupled with normal farm issues, I had a very sleepless night.

It didn’t get below 27 degrees here after reaching 44.3 degree Celsius yesterday, for those volunteer Country Fire Fighters and metropolitan Fire Fighters, out battling these fires it must be over 100 degree Celsius in all of their fire protection gear. They are in it and the front line to stopping this awful thing.

I had to ask my husband last night to turn the radio off due to the distress I was feeling, he normally sleeps with the radio on due to his tinnitus (roaring ear noise). The radio is on this morning and I am gob smacked with what I have heard. Our official state fire co-ordinator telling us, the fire planes and bombers have had to not go into the area as there was an unknown plane (tourist) having a fly over the fire zone. Can you imagine this? I can’t, the pilot of this plane should be arrested and lose their license, as far as I am concerned.

I hope that once reported by the officials that they could not enter the area, that plane should have been tracked and police waiting for them when they land, except we know how hard our Police are working today as well, they are SAVING people’s lives. There is a whole town evacuated and they are stopping people from entering danger zones, directing traffic out of the areas at great risk to their own safety.

I can send only prayers for all of the CFS volunteers, fire fighters and people who are in the danger zone today. Houses can be replaced, I have my fire plan which I have everything in place in case we get lightning and fire today. I know my way out of property via 3 different routes and have got all of our things ready. One never knows when it strikes and coupled with wind it can cause massive destruction.

Here is a picture we took last year July 14th 2014 of where a lightning bolt ‘blew up a tree’, it was lucky it was in winter or the fire it would have caused would have been terrible, my husband found branches over 10 metres away.

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Today is brought to you by the letter C

This is the one that I know people are waiting for, I have been asked, how are you going to write around this? Well it’s easy really in farming you either are one or you’re not. Many people react to being called the c word and yes it can be insulting and degrading and it certainly needs to be defended when the title is aimed at you.

There are many things on farm and off farm that earn this title and it can be said out of the blue or sometimes on people’s faces you can see it coming. I have heard it slip out in general conversations and quickly glossed over with an apology or ignored. It brings shock to people’s faces regardless of the situation and the spruker.

Farming brings with it many a thing starting with c, I immediately think of our lovely cattle, they too on occasions have been known to be c’s. they can walk up the race wrong, they can jump fences, eat energisers, break fences, find their way back to their mothers and yell loudly when being mark and tagged (requirements under law). But they are really gentle curious creatures with whom we treat with kindness, compassion and slight fear.

We have the CFS whom are fantastic volunteers that risk their lives for others to help save property, animals and vegetation. My husband is one and we have been through two fires together on the farm that have luckily only destroyed fencing and crop. Croping is another c word that can bring out the ire in a farmer, on a tractor / air seeder / boom spray / day and night, sore hips, knees, necks and these things ache for over 2 to 3 weeks and those around them know about it. Then we can throw the combine harvester into the mix, this machine is used with the reaping of all crops and is a dangerous tool in the hands of amateurs and farmers. They can cause fires, catch on fire and cost large amounts of money to maintain them.

Lets not forget the cats & chooks who live on farms, useful animals, chooks for eggs and cats to catch mice, rats and company. We have 4 cats that have all been caught by my husband as kittens in the freezing cold of winter, the first 3 he used to use welding gloves to pick them up and pat them as they were so feral, now they are house bound and quite nice cats. Gatsby the 1 year addition to Caloundra Station (our property) never had the feral scratches he found warmth and food on his first night and decided not to go.

Today we are going out to plant 2000 trees and no doubt at some stage the c word will rear its ugly head. Regardless of what people say we live in the COUNTRY, the COUNTRY throws obstacles much like the CITY. Call me what you like but never a COUNTRY BUMPKIN, now what were you all thinking I was going to write?

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Fire

Well we didn’t get lucky and escape these South Australian bushfires, the one I have been concerned about for the last couple of days had a wind direction change and it came on to our property, Caloundra Station. Luckily for me, my husband a veteran CFS volunteer happened to be here as the fire truck that had called for him couldn’t wait the 20 minutes for him to travel from our property to the fire shed.

I was out watering the tomatoes (as you do) and preparing the property for another hot night when I noticed white flakes coming from the sky and appearing on the cat’s fur that had followed me up to the vegetable garden. Being a city girl I had to ask the question, “are we safe with ash raining down on us?” the fire was over 16km away at this stage. The answer was yes, but we had better check the Mount Rescue our Ngarkat boundary.

There is was, we could see the flames from a distance away but none the less we knew it was going to hit us. We weren’t as safe as we thought. Husband donned his CFS gear and headed to the fire whilst I got ready to leave, but then it all happened quickly. He called, I couldn’t leave as there wasn’t time for anyone to come and help so I also put on fire appropriate clothing (his old CFS uniform) boots etc and drove up to him. We then had to sit and wait with the fire fighter at the ready. We retreated back as the flames were a couple of stories high and not safe for anyone to enter into. My heart races, my mouth dries up and I know I shake – adrenaline fear.

We waited for it to jump the fence and start spot fires, and just as it was doing this the CFS fire truck turned up, you do not know how welcoming those red and blue flashing lights are. The people who are on them give you the thumbs up as they drive directly into the line of fire.

They are in uniform, gloves, boots, hard hats and safety masks – it was still over 35 degrees when this was happening. But it is safety first. It jumped and raced along faster than anything I have seen, the sky around us was very black and thick with smoke and you sit there dripping with sweat waiting to go in and help extinguish fires. I watched it race and heard it running into neighbours properties, as more and more fire trucks turned up.

Then we see the wild life, the kangaroos who happened to get out of fire, come racing towards us. They stop and rest, some don’t survive, some are singed and others just fleeing to safety away from the fire. They shall live on our property for days till the land cools and here there is water and some feed. My husband says he saw about 40 of them this morning all milling around watching and waiting. We are safe, no livestock lost, our neighbours are in the same boat, it’s fencing and trees.

Stay safe everyone, stay alert and thanks for everyone’s thoughts and good wishes, it’s trying times for all in the Upper South East of South Australia. Here is a picture of the fire jumping into our property at 2100 last night.

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CFS how come it’s so under funded

it is amazing to me, there has been such fuss about Holden closing about the grants and money it ‘needed’ to stay here and how the Labor Government in South Australia who have been in power for many years are ready to continue arguing about this with the Federal Government yet the CFS which is a major VOLUNTEER organization is left to its own devices.

My husband and most of the crew he responds with are National Medal holders, are agriculturalists, volunteers, farmers and in general are very handy men to have a round. These people have skills many wished they had and use these to fight fires, keep each other safe, keep property and live stock safe and are relied on by the paid fire fighters and the Government to pick up the ‘slack’. This means that they are a necessity not a luxury and are called and deployed by the “emergency Service Centre” to go in and help control fires.

What ASTOUNDS me is that they do this, with all of their skills and fearlessness WITHOUT the resources they should have. They travel into fire zones, sandy areas where they need to let the tyres down on the fire units so they can travel safely into the areas. Yesterday as he was out in the Ngarkat fire it was discovered NO ONE on the truck has a CHAIN SAW accreditation certificate so no one is able to cut trees down to help them get through safely. This is totally unbelievable, the CFS has run out of money to run the course to get them all re accredited.. I bet many of you are shaking your heads this can not be possible, unfortunately it is the truth, it is a big penalty if they get caught (monetary of course) and as they had paid fire fighters there, they were unable to use a chain saw.

Now these are highly capable farmers, who would have better safety procedures around chain saws than many tree loppers. I am trying not to say it but I am… WTF. Do we have to fund raise to get these people adequately qualified to protect themselves, land, property and livestock? I wonder, why is the Premier & Opposition yelling about this and offering some of the subsidies given to the CFS so that everyone has the appropriate piece of paper that could help save lives? I don’t understand either.

Here is a picture of the fire he has been going in and out of for the last 2 days and it’s going to go on for another week at least. This is at the end of my road and blowing into the Victorian Border – we are safe, but it is still food for thought how we need to look after those that volunteer and look after us.

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FIRE CFS VOLUNTEERS

We have fire again, not on our property this time but in the Ngarkat National Park that backs onto our property. It was started by a lightning strike about 5pm yesterday. My Husband went out to fight it about 7pm and arrived home at 230am in the morning. He was then called at 730am and asked to come back, he could be gone all day.

What have I done, I have put our fire plan into action, in Australia it’s Stay and Defend or Go. If you stay you need to be ready to defend, the property needs to be clear of trees and anything flammable – but the rate a fire moves nothing is safe, I have seen this first hand. I pack the car of the things we treasure and the paper work we would need should we ever lose anything in a fire. I take jewelry and photo’s as well as the computer back up drive and laptops. I pack medications for us and the dog and clothing, that is all as I have to fit the dogs x4 and cats x4 (if I can catch them) in the car so that I can go.

I have no idea what else I would pack and take, we are insured not that it covers everything but I can not think of anything else that I would load up a trailer and risk injuring myself or getting caught in a fire I could not fight on my own. Would I be sad to lose the house, absolutely devastated but they are things that can be replaced people and animals can’t.

Watching my husband get ready and leave to fight fire makes me worry about it. Having seen a fire here in 2012 it is frightening, its hot and the noise is loud. We got to 47.2 degree C 116.6 F here the hottest place in Australia yesterday Keith. My husband is a CFS (Country Fire Service) volunteer and as such is called to fires and works hard saving property and livestock. Yet under this Government he is not entitled to any compensation paid fire fighters are should he get sick. I have to wonder why? he and all the other volunteers do the same job as paid fire fighters, in-fact they don’t get to knock off for meal breaks, change of shift nor get paid over time to do the same work. The Labor Government in South Australia expects them to turn up and do the job for nothing (which they do) but will not allow compensation should they get cancer related illnesses that are directly linked to fires. It is disgraceful.

I don’t actually see the premier out here fighting for hours on an end in 45 degree heat with radiant heat being more than 10 degrees above this. The farmers have to do this in between looking after live stock, feeding live stock going about their daily chores and so can lose income from fighting fires, if the CFS guys & girls are from paid work they take the day off unpaid, you would think with the amount of stock and property these brave people have saved over their time, compensation should they get sick would be easily accessible. My husband has a National Medal for his years of service in the CFS and should he get sick or worse hurt in a fire, we will have to sell everything to look after him.

To all the volunteers everywhere that do such good works for people, places and property I salute you and value you and hope that your good deeds are repaid in kind.