Item 8 of 14
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Case study – Being prepared

Phil Lamble, who farms cattle at his family farm Karina near Cobargo, NSW

Phil Lamble manages his family farm Karina near Cobargo, NSW. He felt prepared to enact his fire plan when fire struck on 31 December 2020. “We knew fire was a risk for this farm. I felt like I had a good understanding of fire and what could be done. I was actively managing the risk throughout the year: maintaining, clearing, managing the fuel loads.”

But the fire that arrived was not the grassfire that was expected; it was a high intensity fire that was far more difficult to defend against. “We often prepare for a grassfire, but because of the drought there was no grass. It was definitely a changing environment. Even on the day, it was just adjusting what you were doing to the conditions. I did things like having the gutters full of water, clearing anything that could burn away from the house, and was also thankful I had done that maintenance throughout the year.”

“If I’d had prior knowledge of what that fire was, I would have had about a fifteen-metre firebreak ploughed around the house. I think that would have helped. We don’t have any structural firebreaks; most of what we have is more to do with run-off. But it is cleared, besides the larger trees. They’re open paddocks.”

Another essential part of Phil’s fire plan was the insurance cover in place for the farm. “Insurance is just essential for a farm like ours. The road to recovery is long, and insurance makes a big difference to being able to move on. Looking back we probably had the right amount, though in hindsight I might have had all of our animals insured and had cover for wages. You’ve gotta be realistic of where your margins are, but I would recommend it.”

Phil has refined his fire plan since his experience during Black Summer. “There were definitely things learnt. For example, water is critical. I want to increase our sprinkler and pumping capacities: water was used to my advantage in this fire, and I would increase my ability to use the water for next time.”

When it comes to your equipment, Phil says, “quality is definitely important. Based on the fact that it’s a farm and a livelihood, it is worth investing in better quality equipment. I’d make my primary power source a diesel generator. I would also have liked a professional standard set of protective firefighting clothes to wear. The immediate effect on your body was very concerning.”

Looking forward, Phil is investing in things that benefit his business overall, as well as being useful for his fire plan. “The biggest thing is, looking where I can overlap machinery and things that would benefit the farm but also benefit firefighting.”