Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Farmer's slash leads to Lancaster blaze

CFA firefighters have warned against farmers conducting slashes in extreme heat after a fire was sparked by this activity at Lancaster.

ASHLEIGH WILLIAMSON January 18, 2013 4:52am

A firefighter works to contain a fire that broke out on a property at Lancaster.

Gallery: See more photos from the fire here.

The slashing of a paddock started a fire that forced the rescue of an unaware mother from her Lancaster farm house yesterday afternoon.

Kyabram Country Fire Authority captain Mick Crompton said the first firefighters were called to a property on McKenzie Rd at 12.48pm.

Mr Crompton said a farmer had defied Goulburn Valley temperatures of up to 40°C to slash a dry paddock.

‘‘Obviously, (slashing) is not ideal in hot weather ... you only need to hit a rock or a wire, or the bearing could falter underneath the slasher, and it could spark,’’ he said.

Mr Crompton said Kyabram and Merrigum CFA members arrived to find the large grassfire moving towards a house and shed.

Denise Raftis was inside the house working and did not know about the fire until father and daughter David and Jessica Adams, who live about 2km away, saw smoke and drove to her Kendal Green property to check she was safe.

‘‘I had no idea ... I owe them everything,’’ an emotional Mrs Raftis said at the scene.

Mr Crompton said 16 tankers, two helicopters and one aeroplane needed about an hour to control the fire.

The helicopters and aeroplane dropped water from a nearby dam.

Firefighters from Cooma, Girgarre, Kotupna, Kyabram, Merrigum, Mooroopna, Mooroopna North West, Rushworth, Shepparton, Stanhope, Tatura, Timmering, Tongala, Undera, Wyuna and Yambuna limited the damage to 26ha of land north and south of McKenzie Rd.

‘‘Crews did a marvellous job to save lives and property with minimal resources,’’ Mr Crompton said.

Mr Crompton said luckily wind was minimal, so the fire did not spread quickly.

‘‘Fire creates its own weather and with dry land, it just skips across the top,’’ he said.

North-east Victoria did not have a total fire ban yesterday, despite nearby Kyabram recording a maximum 41.1°C temperature about 4.30pm.

Mr Crompton said farmers still needed to think about using machinery in hot weather — total fire ban or not.

‘‘Given how dry rural areas are at summer, they need to look at it and think, ‘Do I need to do it today?’,’’ he said.

Police were not expected to charge the farmer who was slashing.

For more on the fire, grab a copy of today’s News.

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