Early fires spark fears
Thousands of hectares of WA have been scorched as an early start to the bushfire season pushes volunteer crews to the limit and raises concerns about the future.
Newdegate farmer Trevor de Langrafft was one of many who downed farm tools to fight fires last week, after a blaze spread to within 1km of his property south of town.
He was one of about a dozen farmers from areas near Newdegate and Lake King who helped to contain the blaze ignited by a lightning strike on Friday night.
While it was contained to a “few hectares” in a matter of hours, warm, south-easterly winds rarely seen at this time of the year spread the blaze on Saturday.
“It fanned some embers, they jumped into the surrounding bush, and it got quite serious,” Mr de Langrafft said.
Soon, between 30 and 40 people were fighting the fire, containing it to bushland and an “old fire scar” by Saturday night.
“We’ve spent the days since doing containment work, reinforcing the perimeter of the whole burn, and back burning,” he said.
“We were trying to burn most of the high fuel load areas to make it safe, because the continual re-sparking will continue to be an issue for weeks.”
Crews worked late into the night on Saturday to contain the blaze, which Mr de Langrafft said allowed the group to work in cooler temperatures.
Mr de Langrafft said WA’s farming communities were bracing for a “bad year for fires”, after a dry year.
Australia’s latest bushfire outlook from August — released last week — paints an ominous picture of what might be ahead, predicting above-normal bushfire conditions for parts of south-west WA.
The prediction has been made after a dry year, with soil moisture low, and above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall likely for many parts of WA this summer.
The fire season traditionally runs through to March or April for southern Australia. By Tuesday, several fires were burning across WA, with the largest at Forrestania, east of Lake King.
Mogumber farmers Tom and Kaye Kelly found themselves caught in the middle of a blaze last weekend, when a fire tore though areas north of Perth.
Their 2000ha property is on the Bindoon-Moora Road, between Mogumber and Gillingarra.
About 80 of their 180 merino sheep flock died in the blaze, and nearly their entire property was scorched.
No infrastructure was damaged.
“The wind was a furious wind, and it was 45C, everything was happening quite quickly,” Mrs Kelly said.
The farmers have now turned their attention to housing their 80 Murray Grey cattle, with all of their fences and pastures destroyed.
Wagin farmhands Jack Stallard and Jay Ward travelled more than 300km to Forrestania to help fight the fire last Tuesday to Saturday, and said crews had been busy working on containment lines.
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