ACT News


Triumph after trying days for Wally and his champion ram

Merino wool producers Charlie and Wally Merriman fought back bushfires at Boorowa on Friday just in time to clean up at the Great Southern Supreme Merino Show in Canberra on Sunday.

Wally Merriman exhibited the champion March shorn ram, while his brother was due to arrive later with five rams for the sale on Monday which follows the show.

Farmers have lost thousands of head of stock across eastern Australia in bushfires, and many of the the 295 rams on show and for sale in Canberra came from properties caught in the disaster.

Charlie Merriman lost 36 mixed weaner sheep on Friday when a bushfire roared out of Black Range onto his property Little Range in minutes, burning 400 hectares and threatening stud stock.

Wally Merriman's stud Merryville was more fortunate.

''We had two fires, one came within 50 yards. We were lucky, either one could have got us if there was a change in the wind.''


In the lead-up to the prestigious show and sale, field days at Boorowa attracted interest from across Australia from graziers in search of good genetics, but events wound up quickly when the fires arrived, spotting half a kilometre ahead of the main front.

Charlie Merriman's son Jonathon set off on a trail bike with two dogs to move sheep closer to the home and sheds.

Three helicopters, two planes, fire tankers and farmers from the district fought the fire until it was stopped on neighbouring Hillgrove, where it had threatened stud cattle.

Charlie Merriman said the waves of firefighters were brilliant: ''It was only a kilometre wide, there were people in front of it, they couldn't stop it, they had to regroup.''

Great Southern Show president Ray Davis, of Demondrille Merino Stud, Harden, said three studs at Boorowa and Bookham were excused from showing on Sunday due to the fires but allowed to sell on Monday.

Mr Davis has been battling fires throughout January, as have many others who fought the Boorowa fire.

''They were up most of the night trying to fight that fire and have to turn around, have a couple of hours sleep and come down here [for the show].''

In better times 20 years ago, when the show was held in Goulburn, a top stud ram fetched $55,000. Since the switch to Canberra, top prices have been around $20,000.

Mr Davis said wool prices lately were high. ''Everything looks rosy on that side of things, it's just that people are a bit frightened of the season at the moment, just hanging out for rain.

Meanwhile, firefighters are mopping up a bushfire in the north-west of NSW that has destroyed 53 homes but is now behind containment lines.

More than 90 firefighters are still active at Bugaldie, west of Coonabarabran, where rainfall is reducing fire activity.

As well as the 53 homes, 113 outbuildings, livestock and farm machinery were lost in the fire, which has burnt through more than 53,000 hectares.

More than 100 fires are still active, but the fire danger has been downgraded to low to moderate.

''But we've got a great window of opportunity and at this stage certainly we're in a much better position than we were two days ago,'' a spokeswoman said.

In Victoria, residents have returned to their bushfire-damaged homes in the state's east, as authorities battle to control a massive blaze before more predicted hot weather. with AAP