Sarsfield Estate Fire 30. 12. 2019

We always knew that the fire would come here one day. We always assumed that on that day we would be on our own.

We always expected the fire to come along the shelter belt of mature trees behind our buildings (Southern shelter belt). We always expected the dangerous moment to be when after the hot northerly winds the cold-front would come through, the wind changing to South and driving the fire from the trees towards the house, shed and winery.
And so it happened.

30. 12. 2019:

The situation is obvious, has been for several days.
At some stage there are some emergency warnings and evacuation orders which we forget to see.

Morning: The temperature reaches 38° at 9 am. We bring the chickens (a rare breed) from outlying pens into temporary enclosures in the vegie garden, under Hazelnut trees in the shade. Lay out hoses, garden sprinklers, blocking gutters. Testing pumps.
By 12 am the temperature reaches 40°C and at 2 pm 43°C.

17 h: the sky towards Bruthen
17 h : the fire is intensifying
17:30 h
17:45 h

We cannot believe that the many explosions we hear are Sarsfield houses burning.

We have 2 basic lines of defence:
1. A diesel pump delivers water from our main dam to 2 old-fashioned irrigation lines behind the buildings.
2. This works with 3 pumps from 3 drinking water tanks. They power large roof sprinklers and several fire hoses.

our defence line behind the winery
defence line behind shed
house defence, it also covers the main chicken sheds

And we wait.

Around 19 h flying embers start a grass fire. Immediately 3 CFA tankers come in and get on top of it, but before it is completely blacked out they have to leave for a fire in our NE corner.
They are ordered back to headquarter sometime after dark.

Now we are on our own.

The main fire comes in at our NW corner and we retreat to the winery.

22 h ; the fire front reaches our farm at the NW corner
22:30 burning along our W boundary and through the Shiraz block towards the winery

Around this time the vegie garden with 6 chickens and 5 small chicks is set alight by embers.
Extinguished with hose and sprinklers turned on.

22:30 h the fire burns along our Western border and through the vineyard towards the winery. It burns as a grass fire through the large paddock where our cattle are. The grass is very short and we hope that they can find a way to safety.
smoke and embers, as seen from the winery

38°C and seven hours to go to the predicted wind change.

22:40 Western boundary. Our neighbour’s house is just behind these trees.
22:48 h bearing down onto us through the trees behind our buildings (Southern shelter belt)
23:08 h. Now the fire is here, the air is full of smoke and is hard to breathe. We take cover.

40°C and 3 1/2 hours to the wind change.

A short time later the fire front has passed, the air clears a bit and we can leave the winery.
The diesel pump at the dam runs out of diesel and the three main chook sheds are on fire. I start taking the chickens out as fast as can be done, Peter has the petrol pump behind the house up and running and supports with the fire hose.
Four chickens and 1 rooster cannot be saved. 26 chooks and 7 chicks are safe in the garden and under sprinklers.
We guard the house and sheds with fire hoses.
The wind change arrives around 2:30 h and blows embers from the trees towards our buildings.
The temperature starts to drop a bit; 3 hours till daylight and no more time to take photos.