TOTAL DEVASTATION: Ryan Hackett surveys what little is left of his sister and brother-in-law’s house south-west of Hamley Bridge. While the house is completely destroyed, a nearby carport and shed are still standing.
WHEN the Pinery fire swept through the Lower North, Barabba resident Ryan Hackett’s mercy dash to protect his animals turned into a desperate attempt to escape the blaze’s fury.
Mr Hackett offers horse agistment on his property, and when the fire broke out, moving them to safety was his top priority. He moved four to Mark Branson’s Stockport property – where he is employed as a workman – thinking they would be well out of harm’s way.
He was on his way to pick up two more when the fire got too close for comfort.
“I kept driving thinking it was just smoke, but next thing there was fire on both sides of the road. I went to turn around and jack-knifed the float. I looked back and the flames were at the float and both sides of the car.
“I was doing 90km an hour and it was chasing me.”
He said his thoughts immediately turned to his sister’s safety, with her house south-west of Hamley Bridge under threat.
“I rang my sister Kirsty, who was packing the shed up, and told her to get out,” he said.
With the fire moving quickly across the landscape, Mr Hackett headed back to Branson Farms, where he was forced to shelter in a ute while the fire front passed.
“Mark and I tried to get the header and tractor. We got halfway up the hill and saw flames in the paddock so we turned back and got stuck in front of the house. We couldn’t see anything, we didn’t really have a clue where we were.
“I feel bad I took the animals there, thinking they would be safe.”
While all his horses survived the blaze, four required intensive treatment.
Unfortunately, his sister and brother-in-law’s house was destroyed by theblaze.
Kirsty and Matthew Graham’s house south-west of Hamley Bridgewas reduced to little more than a shell and piles of rubble.
The carport next to the house and a large farm shed somehow made it through relatively in-tact.
MEMORIES GONE: The fire completely destroyed the house, with no internal walls, windows or roofing left.
“One toolbox melted in the shed, that’s how hot it got. The back wall is warped,” he said.
“My brother’s old Holdenis in there, and the headlights have bubbled but other than that it’s OK.”
Upon returning to his own home, he had better news.
“I thought my house would be gone too,” he said. “The garden and the lawn out the front were on fire, so I put that out with the little bit of water I had left.”
“Our house is covered by trees, and our back fence stopped a lot of heat. The fire has gone along the steel fence, but where the fence ends it’s gone into the garden and taken all the trees out at the front of my house.”
He said farm firefighting units played a vital role battling the blaze.
“The Country Fire Servicewasfighting the big stuff, the fire front, while all these little fires needed mopping up,” he said.
Mr Hackett said many farmers were relying on old equipment after missing out on Regional Capability Community Fund grants. His application for a ute-mounted unit was knocked back.
“We pushed pretty hard for it. It would have been great to get a fire unit – we’ve got one at work but we need one here,” he said.“We’ve only got a 300-litre tank on a trailer. I put down for a 600L water tank with a pump.”
While not being a member of the CFS, he said he always helped extinguish fires where he could. He said he believed his application was rejected because he was not deemed to live in a ‘high-risk’ or priority one area.
“I don’t know if I’ll try again – maybe they’ll deem this a high risk area this time,” he said.“What makes a high risk area? Seeing a fire like that, it goes through at 100 miles an hour. It burnt everything because of the wind speed.”
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