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12 January 2022
By NICK RIDLEY
Wimmera farmers and authorities continue to count losses from a New Year’s Eve fire that started in South Australia and spread to the far west Wimmera, leaving thousands of livestock dead.
The blaze, caused by a car fire near the South Australian and Victorian border, spread easterly on December 31, burning more than 7000 hectares of farm, grass, bush and timber plantations at Poolaijelo.
Fire-containment efforts included Forest Fire Management Victoria and South Australia Country Fire Service as well as Country Fire Authority.
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Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions senior communications adviser Justine Severin said the fire had affected 26 rural properties.
“Known building losses include one hay shed, one wool shed, five machinery sheds, one solar pump, two trailers, 10 bales of hay, a generator and eight farm vehicles,” she said.
The fire killed 6672 sheep and 19 cattle.
Agriculture Victoria has established a team to support farm businesses with recovery.
Technical specialists, led by recovery manager Heather Drendel, are providing advice and support.
Ms Drendel said Agriculture Victoria field teams had been working with farmers to manage animal-welfare issues and had completed loss and damage assessments of farm assets and stock losses in the immediate aftermath of the fire.
“The team is now focused on providing ongoing support to impacted producers to help them with their recovery journey,” she said.
“We’ve been able to contact most producers to complete outstanding damage and loss assessments. However, I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t heard from us to call Agriculture Victoria.
“If farmers would like ongoing support, they will be assigned an agriculture recovery team member who will work closely with them.”
Ms Drendel said Agriculture Victoria staff could provide primary producers with information and advice on feed budgeting, livestock health, pasture recovery, soil and gully erosion, fencing repair and replacement, land classing and sediment management and removal from farm dams to maintain water quality.
She said staff had also prepared and mailed out recovery information packs to producers.
Ms Drendel said the recovery team was working with other stakeholders including West Wimmera Shire Council and Rural Financial Counselling Service to co-ordinate farmer support.
She said farmers could call 0427 694 185 during business hours to speak to a recovery team member or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Triangle Fire Alliance manager Anthony Walsh said early estimates were about 800 hectares in timber-plantation losses.
He said this equated to more than $10-million.
“Forest industry brigades have provided 16 appliances, a helitak fire tank and 40 firefighters working alongside FFMV and CFA volunteers,” Mr Walsh said.
Country Fire Authority chief fire officer Mark Gunning confirmed the blaze had forced the closure of several roads as teams responded to the emergency.
He urged communities to remain vigilant and maintain fire-safe practices in the wake of the fire.
“Trees affected by fire provide a risk to public safety due to falling branches and therefore the need to close the roads,” he said.
CFA District 17 commander Lindsay Barry added CFA firefighting crews and appliances from districts 15, 16 and four and five as well 17 were involved in fighting the fire.
“We are talking about 50 CFA firefighting appliances that have helped during the fire,” he said.
“Police did traffic control and FFM Vic crews have worked hard with the CFA and FFM Vic crews.”
The entire January 12, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!