Strong wind and heat whip up devastating crop fire

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
The blaze came just three weeks after a series of fires caused by lightening destroyed more than 3000ha of crops.
Camera IconThe blaze came just three weeks after a series of fires caused by lightening destroyed more than 3000ha of crops. Credit: Justine Rowe

A header fire fuelled by strong winds and 33C temperatures has destroyed an estimated 700ha of crop across three neighbouring properties.

The blaze took hold last Thursday when a rock kicked up and sparked a flame near Devil’s Creek, about 100km east of Geraldton and 15km south of Mullewa.

Mullewa Central Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade second lieutenant Chris Curtis was one of about 40 volunteers who helped to contain the blaze, which stretched across 20km.

He said high winds meant what could normally have been quickly contained escalated into a six to eight-hour fight.

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“Header fires aren’t very common, we might see one or two a year up here,” he said.

“We had three ploughs going, cutting in fire breaks and a heap of water trucks putting out spot fires.”

Countryman understands all of the affected crops were insured.

The blaze came just three weeks after a series of fires caused by lightening destroyed more than 3000ha of crops, leaving a damage bill of more than $3.6 million in the Dalwallinu shire alone.

Industry estimates 12 headers are destroyed by fire in Australia each year. At least three headers caught fire in WA during last year’s harvest, with two confirmed near Esperance and one in the northern Wheatbelt.

Safe Farms WA executive officer Maree Gooch urged machine operators to be “vigilant at all times”.

“Grain dust can accumulate quickly and it only takes a small spark to ignite the dust” she said.

“High temperatures combined with strong or gusty winds can cause fires to spread rapidly.

“Fires can easily start and it is important that everyone knows what to do and how to use fire equipment.”

Farmers should create a fire plan, relating to the house, office, children and pets, Ms Gooch said.

The fire at Devil's Creek.
Camera IconThe fire at Devil's Creek. Credit: Justine Rowe

The State Government will target bushfire complacency in a $1 million advertising blitz this summer after a survey of WA residents found just 16 per cent have a plan ready to enact in the event of a fire.

Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said the campaign, launched on Tuesday, encouraged people not to rely on firefighters to save them and their homes.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services survey revealed 43 per cent of West Australians did not feel bushfires were a risk to their safety, despite 90 per cent of the State being prone to potentially deadly bushfires.

Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan said it was “very concerning” only 16 per cent of West Australians know what they would do during a bushfire.

“We live in a State where bushfires can strike just as easily in a forested area as they can in housing estates bordering natural vegetation,” he said.

“Everyone needs to think very carefully about their own personal safety.”Visit www.firechat.wa.gov.au to create a fire plan.

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