350 sheep killed as blaze destroys property

There was plenty of smoke but no houses came under threat from this 10-hectare grass fire Granya. Pictures: MARK JESSER
There was plenty of smoke but no houses came under threat from this 10-hectare grass fire Granya. Pictures: MARK JESSER

FARMER Howard Gadd has lost half his livelihood after fire tore through his Jingellic farm on Saturday, killing 350 of his sheep and charring most of his property.

A lightning strike 100 metres from his River Road house started the blaze on Saturday afternoon, which then burnt about 250 hectares.

Last night the fire was declared contained.

Flames came within 10 metres of his house as neighbours and Country Fire Authority volunteers helped to save the home.

“We attempted to put the fire out, but we ran out of water and it spread too quick,” Mr Gadd said.

“We retreated to the house and I can’t thank the people enough who turned up to help protect my house.”

Fire engulfed 137 hectares of his property.

“There’s only about 20 acres (eight hectares) that’s not burnt,” Mr Gadd said.

To add to his agony, Mr Gadd is not insured and 350 of his sheep died.

“I have 450 sheep left, but I have lost half my income,” he said.

Mr Gadd and his neighbours yesterday had the task of shooting the severely burnt sheep that were still alive and burying them.

“It was an unpleasant job and I was just thankful I didn’t have to shoot many myself,” he said.

Meanwhile, another lightning strike on Saturday afternoon sparked a fire, two kilometres north of Walwa, on River Road that was last night burning out of control.

The Moombril fire at Wantagong had last night burnt 1282 hectares of forest and pine plantation and broke containment lines.

It was burning in a south-easterly direction and spotting into Mount Narra Narra within the Woomargama National Park.

Firefighters were working on containment lines, trying to hold the fire at Mandaring Road.

Residents of Yenches Road were being advised to be aware of the situation and follow their bushfire survival plans.

Jingellic Bridge Hotel manager Joanne Hills described a sleepless Saturday night as the fire reached within eight kilometres of the town.

“The wind was very, very scary,” she said.

“I didn’t know what to do.

“Lucky the winds changed, they were horrific.”

Tumbarumba Rural Fire Service incident controller John Jervois said the blaze came close to two properties, but they were able to save both.

“It surrounded some of the house — it was very close,” he said of Mr Gadd’s property.

“He lost sheep and most of his farm.”

Mr Jervois said the fire was less than six kilometres from Walwa, with the Murray River protecting it from spreading to the town.

“It wasn’t far from jumping the river,” he said.

More than 100 RFS and CFA firefighters worked to contain the blaze.

Aircraft and two bulldozers were deployed during the battle.

“It’s been a combined effort — we certainly appreciate the CFA’s help,” Mr Jervois said.

He said the task was now about dosing the remaining flames.

“Everything is so dry that the trouble is it doesn’t take much to spark up,” he said.

“If we don’t get too much wind, we should be right.”

Meanwhile, a 10-hectare grass fire at Granya yesterday afternoon kept firefighters busy, with houses close but not under threat.

Crews remained at the scene overnight after the blaze was contained by 6pm.

Also, it’s expected two fires burning 600 hectares of remote state forest, 58 kilometres south of Corryong, will take about a week to contain.

The fires, which were initially burning close together, joined but were last night within containment lines.

Corryong incident controller Ron Patterson said because it was inaccessible, firefighters were being forced to back-burn containment lines at far distances.

Crews were expected to strengthen containment lines over night and work on back-up containment lines.

Mr Patterson warned the smoke could impact Corryong-Benambra Road and camping areas at Dartmouth Dam.

“We have aircraft and resources deployed to monitor and contain the fire,” he said.