If you want a little theme music try this by Johnny Cash. We think this might be sort of appropriately light hearted for what was a very deadly day. A song by Johnny Cash.
On December 12th, 2006 Scamander and surrounds was enveloped by a bushfire coming from the south-west in the area of St. Marys. The township had little warning and really was unprepared in the extreme. If any luck existed for Scamander township was the fact that it occurred in late afternoon. Thus as evening approached the windy conditions which had been creating inferno like conditions, where it looked like nothing would stop it, lessened. Not to belittle this event but people further south of Scamander in the area of Four Mile Creek ‘took a copping’ the next day with winds changing to northerlies.
Our farm was hit as what looked like a fireball swept down the hillside coming to our hill paddock from two sides. We later learnt that this result was caused by the fire not incinerating our top and main orchard but sweeping arond it. Obviously the fruit trees were relatively incombustable compared with the native bush that surrounded it. Not so with the berries and cherries in our hill paddock. The cherry section was covered in netting which became fuel for the fire. And the berries were all mulched which provided the fuel for their incineration. Much of the grassed rows between the trellises was still green again illustrating the good fire retardant qualities of irrigated land
After the fire went through we knew we had to get things going and quickly. Our main orchard had survived but our trees desperately needed water. But most of the irrigation had been destroyed including our main pipeline to the dam. Athough buried in what after many years had become a forest it didn’t survive the heat generated when this forest went up in flames. We really had a need to get materials in so that we could start rebuilding. This wasn’t that easy as the police had roadblocked the roads and no one was allowed to enter or leave. (actually you were allowed to leave but then you couldn’t come back). This didn’t really help us at all although in the end we did manage to get a couple of truckloads of materials in. The enthusiasm and support for this activity came mainly from my friend Graham Simmons who worked at Elders.
There were many volunteers including people I have never met before. It was their kindness that gave us the strength to continue. In this next photo Andreous Wyminga, Geoff Wells and Mick Tandy are with my wife. If they look a bit haggard it is because they worked hard. These are just a few of the characters who really made all the difference to getting us on our feet.
In this next picture ‘the team’ are rapidly putting thngs back together. This picture shows Allan West putting the posts in for all the raspberry and balckberry trellises. Others were retying the wires, cutting out the burnt bushes, putting in new irrigation and lots more. It was amazing to see what took me years to put together being rebuilt within weeks of the fire having burnt everything to the ground.
All of this seem to happen without me being really too involved. As long as we had materials the work seem to just go on. Meanwhile this left me to get on with the irrigation and to get what little crops remained harvested. Which I might add we did successfully harvest apricots plums and other stonefruit that year.
More on how we felt what happened to our crops then?