LESSONS learned after the Pinery fire are helping southern Yorke Peninsula farmers get back on their feet, after fires wreaked havoc across more than 5000 hectares of country last week.
On Monday, an information session was held at Yorketown, where three Pinery fire survivors gave local landholders advice on cleaning up and recovering after a fire.
Owen cropper Ben Marshmann, Hamley Bridge farmer Adrian McCabe and Elders agronomist Michael Brougham gave advice on family health, mental and physical health, insurance, soil management, stocktaking and property clean-up, including melted plastics, fencing and livestock disposal.
Weavers Ag Bureau branch president Martin Collins organised the event, which he said was very well received by the hundreds of farmers in attendance.
"These three guys had gone through the same experience, so the advice that they were passing on was extremely helpful," he said.
Others had commented that the day had lifted spirits of those either still in shock or unsure where to start in the clean-up.
YP Ag agronomist and Edithburgh local Troy Johnson was in attendance and said the day helped to reinforce information he would be advising to his clients affected.
"People need to not rush decisions in the clean-up," he said.
"It can be an good opportunity to improve their farming business."
He said croppers would need to re-evaluate the way they treated the fire-affected ground, particularly whether cultivation was appropriate, controlling summer weeds and possibly changing crop options next year.
"We will get soils drift, but we can't just be going out digging up stuff, it's not the way to do it, we have to be more calculated," he said.
Mr Johnson lives on the western side of Edithburgh, where he and crews only just managed to hold-off the fire front on Thursday, saving his house and the township.
"It was lucky the fire initially headed for the coast because the conditions on Wednesday - 43 degrees and winds up to 100km/hr - we wouldn't have been able to stop it," he said.
He is grateful they only lost barley stubbles, hay, fences and some poultry, but his clients had lost thousands of hectares of crop.
"Much of it had been reapt, but there was still a bit of wheat that got burnt," he said.
"Crop losses would fall into the million of dollars."
At least 11 homes, 200 sheep, 60 chickens, a handful of deer and horses were lost in the fire, which was caused by a "power network fault" on the eastern side of Yorketown.
The 5000ha of country affected included a mix of standing crop and stubbles, while millions of dollars of farm machinery and infrastructure was also lost.
"It was bloody amazing no one died," Mr Johnson said.
"The emergency services did an unbelievable job."
We want to offer local farmers a local place or person to call, whether they need assistance or want to donate.
Mr Johnson said they were planning to form a committee next week to figure out where to channel relief efforts.
"We want to offer local farmers a local place or person to call, whether they need assistance or want to donate," he said.
"There has been a few guys that have finished harvest that have offered to help.
"Blaze Aid has also contacted us to say they'll be in the area for those needing to rebuild fences."
This week, the state government also stepped in to help by appointing Deb Richardson as the local recovery coordinator to assist those affected by the fire.
Ms Richardson has more than 24 years of experience in community development, including significant involvement with the Adelaide Hills community following the 2015 Sampson Flat fire.
A relief centre has also been set-up at the Yorketown Town Hall, where those affected can chat to staff about immediate support and assistance available.
This includes Personal Hardship Emergency Grants of up to $700 per family (or $280 per individual adult).
Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said the grants, jointly funded with the federal government, were designed to be an "important stop-gap measure at a very difficult and trying time".
Those wanting to make cash donations are encouraged to visit the Lions Club website, while a web page (dhs.sa.gov.au/Yorketown) has been created specifically to support the Yorketown community recovery.
The Recovery Hotline is also available on 1800 302 787.
Harvest back on and town open for business
THE Warren family, who farm between Yorketown and Edithburgh, consider themselves lucky to start harvesting again this week.
The family lost about 180 hectares of barley and 120ha of lentil stubbles in the fire on Thursday.
They also have to figure out what to do with fire and smoke-damaged crops, while parts had also been covered with fire retardant.
"But we are not complaining," Reece Warren said.
"Those water bombers signalled the end of this devastating event."
Mr Warren attended the farmer meeting on Monday, which he said was very good for community morale.
He said it was also a good time to take stock and figure out what they could learn from the experience.
"I never thought I would see a fire of that magnitude down here because of our salt lakes and pasture country," he said.
"I definitely don't have that level of complacency anymore."
But the town was back on the mend and Mr Warren welcomed holidaymakers back to the region.
"There may be damage, but this will not affect our town, if anything it has brought us together and made us stronger," he said.
"We would really like people to know that the area is open for business."
Mr Warren, with Edithburgh local Jenny Sinclair, was also organising a 'thank you' day at the Edithburgh sporting ground on Sunday, January 19, to recognise those who fought the fire and helped in the recovery effort, while also providing an opportunity for those wishing to donate money, time or goods.
"There has already been an unbelievable amount of support from the local community and beyond, so we thought this could be another way to facilitate that," he said.
Viterra central region operations manager Jack Tansley said the company was working closely with croppers following the fire.
"We have been collecting growers' samples both on-farm and at our Port Giles site to understand any impact on remaining crops and provide delivery options if required," he said.
"We are continuing to provide grain sample testing and growers can contact us with any questions."
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Click here to sign up to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.