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Six-month anniversary of the Yorke Peninsula fires sees green paddocks, busy farmers

By Grace Whiteside, Wednesday May 20, 2020 - 12:16 EST
ABC licensed image
Mathew's father Terry rests with his grandsons Aiden and Hamish during a break while fencing. - ABC licensed

Looking at the paddocks around Edithburgh now, it is hard to tell that six months ago they were on fire.

The blaze, caused by an electrical fault, .

Recent rain across South Australia's Yorke Peninsula has bought greenery back to the region, and farmers are busy planting this season's grain crop.

Edithburgh farmer Mathew Smith has recorded 100 millimetres of rain on his property since the start of the year.

"All the burnt ground has come green and we're drilling on it now, so couldn't have asked for a better start," he said.

But it's been a long road to get to this point.

"I still have flashbacks of it," he said.

"But [I'm] just trying to keep positive, got to be positive in times like that otherwise you get yourself down and you can't get out of it.

"With everything getting rebuilt and looking fresh it really makes things a lot happier to be out in it."

Help from BlazeAid

Mr Smith said the volunteer-based organisation BlazeAid was a huge help in getting his property up and running again.

"We did about 36 kilometres worth of fence line, we never would have been able to do that without them," he said.

"I think it was about 250 volunteers all up … rolling up wire or digging out holes. They don't complain, they just get out and do it."

The Mayor of the Yorke Peninsula Council, Darren Braund, said members of the local community had also volunteered their time.

"It's been incredible the way the local community has been working together," he said.

"BlazeAid were very instrumental here for a couple of months in getting things back moving.

"The last weekend that BlazeAid were here, we had 40 or 50-odd farming families gathering together after 250 kilometres of fences were removed and 162 kilometres of fences were re-established.

"You see the good come out of the destruction. There's been some milestone moments, those feel-good moments, that have really encouraged people and brought them together."

Navigating coronavirus restrictions

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, Mr Braund said council is looking at further ways to aid the recovery process.

"When you talk about recovery, people haven't been able to meet face to face so we're keen that when restrictions are lifted — that we can make sure people are getting back together again and supported well," he said.

"We're keen to coordinate some check-in programs where we can promote counselling and also help people prepare for the next fire season."

President of the Weaver Ag Bureau Marty Collins said the restrictions made a tough situation even tougher.

"The community has rallied, but now with this coronavirus it's difficult because we can't even have a meeting," he said.

"We have to have one [a meeting] on Zoom or on the phone. It just makes it so much harder.

"I just hope that the community, once we're free to socialise and get back in crowds, that they're able to rally again."

But Mr Collins said optimism is on the rise after a decent soaking.

"The turnaround has been fantastic because we've had good rains in April and a nice little follow up in early May," he said.

"It's a great relief to me that that country is back planted and they can establish some crops on it so there's no soil erosion."


© ABC 2020

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