SHERWOOD residents in the state’s Upper South East are counting the cost from a massive bushfire that blackened more than 12,000 hectares of farming land and native vegetation, at the weekend.
Emergency services were on high alert, with one of the worst bushfire danger days for the season, and at 1:16pm on Saturday their worst fears were realised.
A wall of flames burnt out of control for hours, destroying four houses and eight other structures.
PIRSA’s recovery teams on the ground estimate the livestock losses as of Tuesday evening at 1690 sheep and 228 cattle.
But the efforts of about 160 CFS volunteers, plus aerial water bombers, have been highly praised for saving 20 homes and other buildings and a small abattoir, which were in the fire’s destructive path.
Farmers have entered a recovery phase and hope to be able to draw on the lessons learned from the 2015 Pinery fire, especially with managing soil erosion.
The Jaeschke family are among those with heavy losses with about 1600 hectares burnt, including 1400ha of stubble paddocks and two houses that were rented out.
Steven Jaeschke says it could have been much worse, with such high fuel loads from two above average seasons and unpredictable weather.
He was alerted to the fire by son Patrick who was near the source of the fire closer to Keith.
After rushing outside and seeing a huge plume of black smoke in the distance, Mr Jaeschke had just enough time to plough breaks on the southern and western sides of Noranda to protect the homestead and other sheds.
Within an hour the flank of the fire was upon the area.
‘We had an eaten out a grazing paddock and had pivots but it still got around almost all of that,” he said.
The Jaeschkes have lost 1500 large square bales of hay and silo bags containing 1000 tonnes of grain.
A mob of 140 of their sheep also perished in the blaze.
Mr Jaeschke is thankful they were well insured and believes their fire preparedness minimised the losses.
“We have spent a lot of time on risk management and while it is a big bill it is necessarily in times like these,” he said.
The weekend’s fire was the latest in a challenging season for the Jaeschkes, with hail damage a few weeks earlier and more than 150 millimetres of rain falling since November, downgrading some crops.
Despite this he describes it as a “solid season”.
Mr Jaeschke says the family has been touched by many well wishers and offers of support, but is conscious others in the community are worse off than them, including their tenants who lost all their possessions.
“There is always an underlying support here which makes our community strong and when you have these events it bubbles up into a big volcano of support for everyone – it is just amazing,” he said.
Charlie and Asha Crozier raced home from holidays at Port Willunga to a heartbreaking sight, with the fire sweeping through nearly 80 per cent of their 840ha Narree Downs property.
But they are hugely grateful to the CFS that their home and sheds are still standing, with fire coming within metres of the buildings.
They lost more than 600 sheep – about a third of their flock – but Mr Crozier believes it could have been much worse and is particularly indebted to a friend who saved his White Dorper rams.
“They are all insured but it is the genetics – you are breeding for years for what you want to achieve,” he said.
“It has been disappointing how we were just getting back to the mob size we needed to be.”
Mr Crozier says the offers of hay, agistment and help with the clean-up have been overwhelming.
“It has been quite challenging coming to terms with the response from the community and friends across the state so now it is just working out how to utilise those offers of help,” he said.
“We know we have lots of work that needs doing so it is about planning. We might not need all the help now but some in a month or two months’ time.”