The time we need rain during harvest

The West Australian

I'm standing in light rain amongst burnt timber somewhere in Scaddan, yet it seems just yesterday I was desperately checking the radar loop in search of any sign of moisture.

I would never have expected there would come a day where I would be willing it to rain so badly in the middle of a harvest season.

Growing up on a farm to the east of Esperance, rain during harvest is almost taboo.

But on Tuesday night I was desperately checking the radar. I'm pretty sure my heart did a momentary flip before I realised the "light showers" that lay in a swathe across the region was actually the smoke from the fires that raged.

At 2pm that day, I had a call from my brother.

When I picked up, he was already on his way to collect our grader and bring it back to Condingup, 65km east of Esperance.

Much of the local volunteer brigades had been called to fire fronts to the north, west or east.

There were concerns that Condingup would soon be under threat. Farm units were already on standby around the district.

He had calmly described the conditions by likening it to the perfect storm.

A few hours later, after lots of nervous pacing I called my father - I knew he would give me a non-biased view and I was desperately hoping that my brother might be over stating conditions.

"Put it this way missy, I'm off to help the boys clean and spray the bulldozers down," he said.

"They're about as safe as they can be where they are (which was just south of Condingup). If it comes it's alright - we've got about four or five hours till it's there. We might need to use them yet too."

I felt a bit sick at that point.

At that stage, the concern in Condingup was changing from the deadly front that was moving in a south-easterly direction ripping through Scaddan, to a separate out-of-control coastal fire to the west of Condingup.

The wind was expected to swing which meant Condy would be under direct threat.

From my house in Albany, I didn't know that cold debris from the Scaddan front had been falling over Condingup, pushed up to 30,000 feet and rushed ahead by strong winds.

I knew that one of my brothers had put a break around Condingup and also around the school and town hall, where families had been evacuated to.

I received messages from my cousin whose sister and partner farm in Salmon Gums.

They were in town but their working man was waiting in Salmon Gums. Their neighbours were camped out on a salt lake watching the fire approach.

No one was sure how our other uncle, aunty and cousin were on their two farms in Scaddan.

The unknown is a frightening force and as the day stretched into night, there were so many unknowns to deal with.

Almost a week later, I have seen some of Scaddan and spoken to some of those who have been affected by this fire. I have seen what has been laid to waste.

But what has struck me most is the absolutely unique community and spirit.

People are shaken, but the community should be absolutely proud of what they and local fire brigades - with no other help - achieved under the nightmarish circumstances.

I doubt any other area of Australia would have been able to push through the absolute ferocity and the unknowns the region has dealt with so far.

And most incredible is the collective ownership in these communities.

When it comes to the crunch, a neighbour's property is just as important as your own.

The loss of anything at all is felt by everyone in the community. The community is as much a family as each family unit within it.

It makes it stronger, resilient and determined, and insulates its members as much as possible from any harm.

My father and mother spent a lot of time in Scaddan before getting their Beaumont block.

In fact, dad cleared much of the farmland in Scaddan more than 50 years ago.

_Dad is up there now, trying to help how he knows best, by getting back on a bulldozer to do earthworks that are desperately needed. _

He refuses to give up his seat to anyone else. And I can understand why.

Thank, you, Scaddan and surrounds for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you.

I am privileged to know you all, you are a credit. I have full faith in your unwavering spirit.

As a mate said to me, you guys are all top shelf.

Best of luck - and here's to a good soaking rain.

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