Stories are emerging of property losses and owners staying on to protect their loved animals as conditions today (Saturday, 30 November) continue to challenge firefighters battling the North Black Range Palerang fire.
The owners of Dog Leg Farm, Angela Hunter and Jake Annetts, who run a small farm and wildlife sanctuary on Bombay Road, west of Braidwood, stayed and worked with firefighters yesterday and into the night to save their family home and business.
The owners of the Deep Peace Farm Animal Sanctuary at Bombay, Billie Dean and her husband Andrew Einspruch, said they had a “front-row seat to the fire” as they worked to save their animals as the fire went over the top of their property.
As properties around them burned, their 240-hectare animal sanctuary was miraculously saved, despite their animals drinking the little water they had put aside to fight the fires.
“We were very blessed but the firies were just fantastic,” Ms Dean said. “We were so relieved to see them.
“We’ve been here rescuing animals for 23 years and I’ve never seen anything like it, and never seen a fire behave like it did yesterday. It was just surreal.”
Ms Dean said their property had just run out of water after struggling with water suppliers who would no longer deliver to their property.
With minimal water in their dams, they prepared to face the fire with buckets of water near the house.
“The funny thing is that we had a whole lot of animals around the side of the house to keep them safe. But they thought the water was for them and they drank it all,” Ms Dean said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, Ms Hunter took to Facebook this morning to sadly announce that their house, trees and new veggie patch were all lost, but thankfully the animals and big workshop were okay.
Video showed the fire creeping up yesterday afternoon as owner Jake Annetts went back to help his neighbours at around 3:00 pm as residents were being urged to leave their homes. Ms Hunter and Mr Annetts, who had been trapped in the 2003 Canberra bushfires, evacuated to Braidwood before coming returning to their property.
From our road 3pm. The fire has been upgraded to emergency and residents urged to leave. Jake went back up to help the neighbours but is coming back into town now. #bushfire #2622
Posted by Dog Leg Farm on Thursday, November 28, 2019
As light spots of rain fell at about midday on Saturday, Ms Hunter told Region Media they were planning to rebuild their home at Dog Leg Farm.
“Our place was basically just a shack and we were actually going to build a proper house next year, so that will have to happen sooner rather than later,” she said.
“We’ve got spot fires still breaking out here and fire crews are here monitoring that so we’re basically just running around putting out little fires as they come up. I think it’s going to be burning for a while yet and I can feel a few spots of rain right now.
“We’ve still got our workshop shed standing which has all our tools and equipment but there was caravan with a lean-to and a small dwelling that we’ve lost, and all the possessions in that have gone as well.”
Ms Hunter said they have spent the last four years regenerating the land with trees, which have all been destroyed by the fire.
“All the trees are gone and our orchard burned, but our 15 chickens and four ducks are still alive so that’s good. The ducks look a bit grubby and shell-shocked but they’re okay.”
Ms Hunter said the left the animals in large sheltered pens with food and water as she and her husband evacuated to Braidwood.
“We’d been in the Canberra fires before and had been trapped, so we didn’t want to take any chances. Then we got a phone call from our neighbour to say that the fire had gone through the property, but she couldn’t assess things because it was too smokey and too dark.”
They returned at first light this morning to find all but a couple of trees still standing.
“We’re just so grateful to the Braidwood fire services and the Braidwood community. We’ve had so much support from people reaching out with offers of assistance, so we’re just so grateful for the wonderful community that exists there.”
A Go Fund Me page has already been set up to help Dog Leg Farm by family friend Jae Worrall. It has already raised $3500 in three hours. You can donate to the fund here.
A similar situation exists for Billie Dean’s wildlife sanctuary, which survives on donations.
“Sanctuaries like ours are denied rural aid because we’re not primary producers,” Ms Dean said. “It’s costing us about $700 a day to feed our animals and most of that comes out of what we’re earning, and we’re working seven days a week to do that.”
The Deep Peace Trust Sanctuary also has a donation page on their website.