Farmer Focus: Under pressure fighting a farm fire

The problem with a once-in-a-decade boomer harvest is that the next one always looks disappointing.

This year, we need to remind ourselves that the current harvest is looking solid.

While the rest of Canterbury is very dry, inland (where I farm) has caught more than its fair share of inclement weather, including 63mm of rain in three thundershowers last week, much to my frustration.

See also: How to establish, manage and rejuvenate hedgerows

We gave ourselves a fright last week, when a fire randomly started by the roadside edge of a row of trees outside a yard that includes the house of one of our staff and his family.

Awesome neighbours

We had a whole lot of luck really – a neighbour alerted us, we were all in our main yard nearby, our fire cart was ready to go and our awesome neighbours turned out to help.

With the wind fanning the fire in towards the house, we were under extreme pressure.

We managed to empty a shed of equipment prior to losing it to the fire and then found ourselves fighting the fire very close to the house, until the fire service arrived with eight appliances.

Some 22ha of standing barley on the other side of the trees caught fire, but fortunately, with a root rake on our telehandler and two tractors and discs, we contained the fire to just 1ha.

The cause appears to have possibly been a short in an under-gate cable for our electric fence – no different to the hundred-odd gateways on this farm.

There is no doubt we had a lot of luck, which resulted in us being able to save a family’s home.

On-farm capability

The incident reinforced to me once again the vital importance of having some first-response firefighting capability on farm to give yourself a chance to hold the situation until the fire service arrives.

Jayne remarked that night on how incredible the response was from our neighbours, and it was.

But I reflected on the fact that we ourselves had responded over the years to emergencies and tragedies on each of their properties.

The closeness of rural communities is very special and precious.

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