Weather News

Wombats rescued from floodwaters at Braidwood property after weeks of raging bushfires

By Niki Burnside and Adam Shirley, Friday February 21, 2020 - 08:47 EDT
ABC image
Kristen Abicair and Mick Mason have been threatened by fire and flood over a difficult summer. - ABC

Like many Australians, Mick Mason and Kristen Abicair are taking time to reflect on an extraordinary summer.

And like many, they are facing the prospect of rebuilding their business after both fires and flash flooding swept through their property outside Braidwood in New South Wales.

But the pair, who love training horses on their property, are also looking back on a series of triumphs, including saving their home, the horses they were keeping, and some very lucky local wildlife.

'She wanted to jump in'

Fires started threatening close to the couple's property in November, when the blaze burning in the Tallaganda National Park first sparked.

That fire would eventually destroy properties and wipe out a huge portion of the area, .

Throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas, Mr Mason repeatedly worked with other locals to assist the NSW Rural Fire Service in protecting properties.

In mid-January, the couple were affected by sudden heavy rain that also threatened their home, which they again saved.

A day of flooding would be followed by more fires, and Mr Mason ran back and forth between the two responsibilities.

By February, the exhausted team at Mick Mason's Horses was once again inundated by heavy rain, which this time brought with it some unexpected challenges.

Flash flooding took everyone by surprise with its speed and ferocity, Mr Mason's partner Kristen Abicair said.

"I've never seen anything like it in this area before," she said.

"The speed at which things were travelling down that creek, and the size of it, was just terrifying."

As she was busy helping drivers who had attempted to cross the flooded bridge nearby, Ms Abicair noticed some other locals who were in danger of getting swept away by floodwaters.

"Wombats [were] getting washed down the rapids there and [we were] getting ourselves out on the bridge to try and fish them out and try and carry them back to dry land," she said.

"I'm a big animal lover so it was just a question of getting them out, like I wasn't thinking too much about it."

A former wildlife volunteer, Ms Abicair was accustomed to lifting young wombats, but those floating by were fully grown.

The water was rushing by so quickly, she said, there was little time to think.

"She wanted to jump in and swim out to them, which wasn't going to work," Mr Mason said.

Instead, she used the bridge to position herself close to where the wombats were about to travel through.

"So I thought 'I've got this, I can do it'," she said.

"They're heavy things — but there was no fight, they were just happy to get out of the water. There was no fear."

She managed to lift two out of three of those she saw to safety.

"Unfortunately we missed one, that washed away, that was a heart-breaking sight, which will never leave me — seeing that poor wombat rush past," she said.

Adrenaline followed by exhaustion as season ends

Throughout the summer filled with extreme weather events, Mr Mason and Ms Abicair said they had missed the solace of working with horses — something they both were looking forward to doing again now that the danger of fire and flood had passed.

"Horses have just always been a part of our lives, both of us," Ms Abicair said.

"Even just not dealing with horses for the past few months when all this has been happening has been strange, to not have that thing of going out and taking the horse for a ride.

"That's a therapy for people who work and live with horses."

While their house was saved, much of their arena and other out-buildings were washed away.

Many of the horses they had been busy training on behalf of others have yet to return since being evacuated in November.

"We've just got to repair, but we need a bit of a rest to start with," Mr Mason said.

Mr Mason said he was proud of the work he and other locals had done to assist in protecting properties from fires in the area.

"Everyone who was in their private vehicles had amazing knowledge of the local area, which was a key factor," he said.

"And they knew part of the areas where the fire fronts were better than people who were brought in from other RFS stations around."

The couple are hoping for a government loan to assist in their re-building process.



© ABC 2020

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Strong winds lash the southeast

13:15 EDT

A vigorous cold front has swept through parts of the southeast, bringing wind gusts in excess of 100km/h to some exposed and elevated parts.

When it rains, it pours over NSW

13:07 EDT

Parts of New South Wales have recorded their best daily April rainfall in decades, as a strong cold front and trough sweeped over the state overnight.

Sunflowers brighten up the Liverpool Plains countryside after years of drought

10:41 EDT

From dry and dusty paddocks an increasingly rare crop is flowering on the New South Wales Liverpool Plains, standing as a symbol of recovery from an intense one-in-100-year drought.