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Caution encouraged for fire season

Helen and Bill Ryley are encouraging people to be cautious when carrying out slashing or harvesting after a fire came within metres of thier Avenel home.

JENNA BISHOP December 18, 2013 10:44am

Bill and Helen Ryley had a lucky escape after a fire came within metres of thier home.


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An Avenel couple are warning people to be extra cautious this fire season after a grass fire nearly destroyed their home two weeks ago.

The fire burned more than 8ha across two paddocks and ran along two fencelines within metres of Bill and Helen Ryley’s property, Rangeview.

Mrs Ryley said despite not being a fire ban day, conditions were as bad as during the devastating Black Saturday fires, especially because of the high levels of fuel.

‘‘We’re in the danger period and there’s a lot of fuel around the paddocks,’’ she said.

Mrs Ryley said the fire’s heat was so intense, it damaged many new and established trees lining the driveway, turning the green leaves brown and brittle.

Mrs Ryley said green grass around the house helped deter the fire from coming any closer but despite fire breaks being in place in the paddocks, it wasn’t enough to stop the fire.

Mrs Ryley said without the quick thinking and actions of neighbours and fellow farmers along the road, the story might have ended differently.

‘‘Without their help — they were the first on scene before the Country Fire Authority arrived — we would have lost our house,’’ she said.

One neighbour helped move about 40 head of cattle into a nearby safe paddock before returning to the fire to help out.

A special tank full of water helped defend the home.

‘‘In summer, we’ve always got that full of water and ready,’’ she said.

Mrs Ryley said the couple saw smoke while driving back from Nagambie after picking up their car.

‘‘We were thinking, ‘please don’t let it be our farm’ and of course, it was,’’ she said.

Mrs Ryley praised the actions of the attending CFA brigades from Longwood, Locksley, Nagambie, Wirrate and Avenel and the Nagambie police.

Mrs Ryley said she believed the fire may have been sparked by slashing on a nearby property, although the CFA has not yet determined the official cause of the fire.

She said although it was not an official fire ban day, the conditions made it a dangerous fire day.

A Bureau of Meteorology report from the day of the fire said at 3pm, it was 31.7°C with a north to north-west wind of 26km/h.

The grass fire at Rangeview serves as a timely reminder for extra caution when slashing grass and using equipment after several fires across Victoria were sparked by headers in December.

CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson said while harvesting could still go ahead during the fire danger period, it was important for people to monitor the weather conditions and carefully check equipment.

‘‘The most important thing you can do is take regular breaks to clear out grass, sticks and seeds that become caught in airflow vents, stone guards and bash plates. It’s also important to regularly look behind you and know when to shut your machinery down — hot exhausts can easily start fires as can sparks when machinery hits stones,’’ he said.

‘‘Safety should be your first priority. Extinguishers with the required 9litre capacity should be fitted to every tractor or self-propelled header, and harvesters and other large machinery should also be equipped with a shovel.’’

Mr Ferguson said the CFA encouraged farmers to use on-site weather reading instruments to continually monitor conditions, including air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and gust strength.

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