Miracle amid the devastation
Peter Southwell, on his property near Yass. Photo: Rohan Thomson
PETER SOUTHWELL called it a miracle.
As he stood in his blackened paddocks, the 65-year-old Yass grazier said only seven of his sheep were killed by the fire.
Which was amazing, considering the fire scorched 90 per cent of his 450-hectare property, Fairview, home to about 2100 head of merinos.
He had moved some sheep the day before the fire swept over his land.
Other sheep found refuge in the spots where they slept - mostly hills worn bare during years of use.
''At 2am, after fighting the fire, I went for a drive and all of a sudden I could see these eyes in the headlights,'' Mr Southwell said. ''It was the sheep.''
He was still keeping an eye out for flare ups, a job he was expecting to do for many weeks.
''It's not really over until we get the next hit of rain,'' he said, adding logs could smoulder and set alight leaves that land on them.
About 130 bales of feed have been donated to him, for which he is extremely grateful, particularly because it arrived so quickly.
He is in the process of building a feedlot so he can buy in food for his stock until the paddocks are green again. But it will be expensive. Barley costs $260/tonne and he has already ordered 20 tonnes.
Another of the bigger jobs is replacing 25 kilometres of fences, at least some of which he will do himself.
For the people of the Yass region on Saturday, it seemed there were more good news stories to come.
The fire had managed to keep its ''being controlled'' status, and if there were no unforseen breaks in the perimeter, it was expected to be downgraded to ''controlled'' on Sunday, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service's spokesman for the area, Peter Dice.
He described Saturday as ''the day we were going to discover our fate''.
This was despite variable winds in the afternoon that could have made controlling the fire difficult.
Wind speeds did increase ahead of the southerly change with smoke affecting the Bookham area.