Fire plan helps keep Avenue farmer, dogs safe in Blackford blaze

Wave of support swirls around Washpool in fire aftermath


Good fire preparation, a clear plan and a bit of luck have minimised the demage at The Washpool, Avenue Range, from last week's Blackford blaze.


Avenue Range sheep producers Janelle and Nick Edwards believe it is a combination of good bushfire preparation and having a clear plan, along with "a bit of luck" that the two houses on the family farm, The Washpool, are still standing.

And while it is heartbreaking to lose about 500 sheep in last week's Blackford blaze they have no doubt their livestock losses could have been much higher, had more of the stock been in the northern half of their property which was hit hardest.

RELATED: Rate of spread of Blackford fire was 'off the scale'

The fire burnt through about half of their land but remarkably they have lost less than 10 per cent of their flock.

When Mr Edwards- one of Lucindale CFS's deputy group officers- left to attend the fire about 12:30pm it was heading south easterly and looked like missing them but within a couple of hours it had turned easterly putting The Washpool in harm's way.

When she saw smoke Mrs Edwards turned on the diesel pump, activating the sprinklers around the house and also turned the sprinklers on at her parents' Rex and Kay Hocking's house, as they were in Adelaide.

"That morning we had done everything that we do on a fire ban day, putting the sprinklers in place and hooking the off set discs up to the tractor," Mr Edwards said.

As the smoke got thicker Mrs Edwards decided to move their five dogs and 10 dogs belonging to the Hockings, all inside the house.

In a stroke of luck, the Spence CFS truck drove up just 10 minutes before the front came through to refill with water and did an incredible job protecting the two homes and outbuildings.

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Mrs Edwards always understood it was unlikely they would get a fire truck due to their driveway being surrounded by scrub, but with the Avenue CFS shed in the fire's path, crews were instead instructed to fill up at The Washpool.

Just before the front hit she recalls it turning dark but says having a written fire plan throughout the ordeal gave her a sense of security, constantly referring to it.

She also used the contents of their pre-prepared fire box, including a battery powered radio, bottles of water and a torch.

When she looked out the front windows a few minutes later she could still see flames moving across their paddocks.

Behind the house the two sheds containing fodder and other equipment, as well as silos with 30 tonnes of beans were destroyed.

While their paddocks were still burning she says it was remarkable how people came to their rescue to minimise their livestock losses, opening gates, cutting fences and moving sheep to safety.

"There were 500 Merino lambs in one paddock and at least 300 have survived. I don't know how when the whole paddock was burnt," she said.

The thing that brings me to tears the most is the generosity of everyone. - Janelle Edwards

In the days since the fire, Mr and Mrs Edwards say the offers of help have been incredible, from sorting out their livestock, putting food in their fridge, removing burnt debris, and even semi loads of hay from Yorke Peninsula and locally.

A local farmer has even loaned them a brand new Bromar sheep feeder after theirs was destroyed in the fire.

"The thing that brings me to tears the most is the generosity of everyone," she said.

"It is the people we know and those we don't and the people who have done things we don't even know about, how do you repay that?

"But that is the thing that will get us through, I know I don't have to worry too much because things seem to just be being done."

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