As he surveys his land, Dudley Roffey is reminded of the worst fires he has seen since 1951.
As he surveys his land, Dudley Roffey is reminded of the worst fires he has seen since 1951. Max Fleet

Gaeta farmers rise from ashes

WHISPERS of smoke and the almost-dead crackle of wood were the only remnants left of fires that ravaged the now charred, bare and black properties of many Gaeta landholders yesterday.

As firefighters battled more blazes around the area throughout the day, the devastating loss of many farmers became apparent.

Landowner Bill Campbell surveyed the damage, and said he had lost about half of his land, or 2000 hectares, and the cost of lost fencing would be enormous.

“There's general damage right through, it's affected everyone,” Mr Campbell said.

“A whole mob of cattle was on Kalpowar Road this morning.”

Volunteers, such as former graziers Ken and Christine Tyson, were helping to repair desperately-needed fences, to keep cattle off the roads and stop them wandering too far.

Although most cattle in the area survived, the hurdle to get them fed has become another of the hardest-hitting consequences.

Gin Gin State Emergency Service workers Tony Bolstad and Vic Vysma were ensuring emergency services had a clear thoroughfare on Kantaka/Kalpowar Road yesterday morning, and said it was encouraging that everyone was working as one.

“The firies have done a good job. There are a lot of dwellings here - it's a vast area,” Mr Bolstad said.

“The local farmers are getting in to try and stop it (with fire breaks) and there's a fodder drop today.”

Sue Roffey's family lost 2000 hectares, or about three quarters, of their Gaeta View property when two devastating fires came from either side of the land and joined together, incinerating almost everything in its path on Friday night.

Mrs Roffey's father-in-law, 84-year-old Dudley, has lived in the area all his life and had local history to compare the tragedy to.

“I saw one in 1951 as bad,” Mr Roffey said.

“One came up through the mountain and ended up on the highway, and two months later another one just as bad came through.”

Add a drought in 1952 to the situation, and Mr Roffey said they lost 800 head of cattle.

Although he also lamented the loss of fencing, his resilience shone through.

“As soon as it rains it'll recover,” he said.

“There'll be quite a bit of work, but we'll get it up.”

And this time their cattle were lucky.

“There's about 103 (cattle) in the paddock, and they were walking along behind the dozer (making the breaks) to get away from the heat,” Mrs Roffey said.

Read more about the fires at Gaeta



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