WA farmers reach out to fire-ravaged communities

Zach RelphCountryman
A big smoke plume over a sheep property in the Parndana region of Kangaroo Island.
Camera IconA big smoke plume over a sheep property in the Parndana region of Kangaroo Island. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

A group of WA farmers is uniting for a common cause: to help their South Australian counterparts.

Earlier this month, Arthur River farmer Sam Burgess took to social media and asked if any farmers were interested in joining him to help volunteer group BlazeAid’s relief efforts in five-ravaged east coast towns.

Unbeknown to Mr Burgess, Hedland Export Depot managing director Paul Brown had put out a call to gauge interest in a WA convoy to bushfire-affected communities three hours earlier.

The two posts attracted a whirlwind of interest from farmers across the State who were eager to venture to fire zones and lend a helping hand.

A week later, WA Fencing Farmers was born.

Mr Burgess and Mr Brown — who have never met face-to-face — are co-ordinating the initiative, with almost 40 people set to venture to South Australia next month to aid fencing efforts at Kangaroo Island.

The group will work alongside other BlazeAid volunteers and erect fences across scorched farmland.

It comes as bushfires have burnt 215,000ha across Kangaroo Island since January 4, with more than 32,000 sheep perishing according to Primary Industries and Regions South Australia.

As of Sunday, 517 cattle, 65 alpacas and five horses had also been reported dead at Kangaroo Island.

Mr Burgess, who has family affected by the blazes ravaging his native NSW, said the WA farming community’s response to the Kangaroo Island campaign was extraordinary.

“To have farmers give up two weeks is a big ask, but the phone calls from interested people has been overwhelming,” he said.

“At the moment, we have farmers coming from Northampton to Esperance — I really am blown away.”

One group of about 20 farmers, spearheaded by Mr Brown, will leave WA for Kangaroo Island on February 15 to help with fire relief for 10 days.

On February 25, the second group of about 20 farmers — led by Mr Burgess — will travel to Kangaroo Island.

Mr Burgess said if interest continued to rise, a third WA Fencing Farmers run to Kangaroo Island could be scheduled for early March.

Two fuel companies have offered to cover the WA Fencing Farmers’ fuel expense to Kangaroo Island, while an online fundraising drive has generated $12,000 for other expenses.

Money remaining after the WA farmers leave Kangaroo Island will be donated to BlazeAid.

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