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Case study – Enacting your fire plan

Belinda McKimmie on her farm in the Biggara Valley

When fire approached Belinda and Mal McKimmie’s farm in the Biggara Valley on the Victoria–New South Wales border on 4 January 2020, they enacted their fire plan. “We had the time to prepare, whereas many others in our district didn’t. That makes a big difference to what you can do. We had a couple of days to get things ready, like fixing the old fire pump. And we had good local understanding of the lie of the land.”

The McKimmie family and their neighbours who helped fight the fire had the training, equipment and protective clothing they needed, including overalls, boots, hats, goggles and gloves. “Within our farm and valley here, we had a lot of good local knowledge of fighting fires. That knowledge and know-how played a big part. Even some of our children had done a firefighting course through school. That knowledge is so important going forward.”

Communications were the main issue they encountered while fighting the fire. “Once the power and the telephones went out, we had no communication between our valley and the town in Corryong. Our satellite internet helped us connect again after the fire, long before the telephones were back working.” Since the fire, they have installed an aerial booster for the telephone and bought additional UHF radios, as well as considering how to be prepared in other parts of the farm. “We’ve also reviewed and enhanced our equipment. We put a bore in straight away after the fire, in February. We’re being careful where we’re planting trees to keep them away from the house, and we’ve got a new generator and firefighting unit.”

Belinda highlights the importance of having power and water equipment built from materials that will withstand the fire conditions. “You can have as many tanks or dams as you like, but if you have plastic tanks, plastic pipes, you’ll lose them in a fire. Some people had solar pumps, but they didn’t work because the smoke blocked out the sunlight.”

“We’ve put up fences now that should be relatively fire-proof: no plastic insulators but using ceramic instead, no wooden posts. We had some old fences that got decimated. Some other fencing that had cement posts and no plastic is still fine where it wasn’t burnt too hotly.

There’s thought in how to go about the fencing so that it can withstand a fire.”