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Ballandean rain brings relief for firefighters in drought-ravaged Granite Belt

By Holly Richardson and Matt Eaton, Friday January 10, 2020 - 12:24 EDT
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Rob Davidson's Ballandean vineyard was hit hard by bushfire in September. - ABC

Volunteer firefighters in Queensland's Granite Belt found themselves driving through landscape covered in hail as they headed for a local bushfire on Thursday.

Ballandean firefighter Graham Parker was so struck by the irony he posted a video of their journey to social media.

"We had a beautiful little storm cell. It sort of came over our part of the world," he said.

"Unfortunately, we also got some of that horrible lightning, which started a few lightning strike fires.

"It happened around the Ballandean back of Ballandean area, up in the hills that are near Sundown National Park.

"It was a bit unusual, but that's the nature of it. As they started we got a couple of multiple fires at one time.

"As we were heading out one of the local houses there looked like their place was just a snowfield, so I grabbed my phone and as we were driving down the road, I did a little video.

"We kind of knew we were going out to something that was going to be extinguished by the rain, but, you know, the reality is we have to go out investigate it and report back on it, make sure that it's taken care of.

"Some of the farmers might have had a little bit of damage to their crop, hopefully it's not too bad.

"I was talking with one of the vineyard people yesterday and they were a little bit concerned that they might have got a bit of damage, but you know, there's not a lot of canopy cover on the vines at the moment … just been struggling with the lack of water."

Bureau of Meteorology Queensland forecaster Shane Kennedy said Ballandean recorded 28 millimetres of rain in the 24 hours to 9:00am on Friday.

"It looks like some reasonably widespread falls of 20mm to 40mm in that area," he said.

"Generally, the 5mm range is the threshold they're interested in and it's generally enough to suppress fire conditions … anything over 5mm is good news.

"Looking at the map, it was focused more into New South Wales … it looks like Ballandean did particularly well, with falls around the area of 5mm to 10mm."

More rain to come

Mr Kennedy acknowledged the falls would not be enough to alleviate water shortages in the area.

"Hopefully be getting some more falls over the weekend, we have a southerly change pushing through late on Saturday afternoon and into Sunday so we should see some good widespread falls," he said.

"Mainly the south-east but also that [border] region, probably more on the fringe for Ballandean but likely to see another 5-10mm, on the Sunday will be the peak day.

"It's likely to be fairly cloudy and have some persistent falls on Sunday."

Mr Kennedy said the rain on Sunday could also reach Stanthorpe, where desperately low water supplies have forced authorities to bring in water by the truckload.

Vegetable producers on the Granite Belt said the storms would help reduce the amount of water being carted to the drought-stricken region.

Ballandean tomato grower David Andreatta said he thought crop damage from the hail had been moderate.

"As a rough guess, 30 to 50 per cent of the fruit is marked, so second grade or rubbish depending on the price," he said.

"Hopefully the bushes aren't too old, so hopefully the young ones, they'll have enough time to grow out of it and set new fruit.

"I have been carting water in, whether it'll be enough to stop carting and get the crop through is yet to be seen, I don't think so."


© ABC 2020

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