The fire is believed to have started by a tractor uploading grain in a paddock. “It sounds like some chaff got under the gearbox and ignited,” says District 20 Operations Officer Pater Taylor. “It took off under a strong south-westerly wind and burnt across the land of three different property owners.”
The fire that started in a barley crop moved into barley stubble before destroying a very good wheat crop, jumping three roads along the way. By the time it was pulled up, 600 hectares had been burnt and four kilometres of fencing destroyed.
Peter and Incident Controller Doug Mitchell from Reedy Dam both use the same words: “There were water issues.”
“The only thing that saved us was a dam of green slimy water with about a foot of water,” says Doug. “There were 10 trucks there and you’d have six of them waiting to fill up at the dam.
“A lot of people have private units out in the paddock with them when they’re harvesting and they did some marvellous work on the fire. That was what did it for us in the end: a lot of luck and so many private units. There were utes, trucks, water carts and whatever else.
“The fire generated its own winds. The flames were probably 20 foot in the air and we timed it at 10 kilometres an hour sweeping across the paddocks.”
The isolated location of the fire also led to communication difficulties with the nearest radio towers in Beulah and Birchip.
Beulah tanker remained on scene blacking out at 6.30pm. “There’s a fair amount of timber along the roads where the fire jumped,” says Peter, “so they’ll be patrolled for a day or two.”
And how did the locusts respond to the event? “People said they could see locusts coming out of the smoke,” says Doug, “but after the fire was out they were back hovering over the smoke.”
Brigades on scene: Birchip, Brim, Woomelang, Lah, Reedy Dam, Areegra, Curyo, Rosebery, Wilkur South, Watchupga, Beulah
In a busy 24 hours, Beulah, Woomelang and Watchupga were called out again on Friday 17 December, along with 10 other brigades, to a fire 16 kilometres west of