Fire wipes out NSW dairy farm in ten minutes flat


Robert Miller managed to save his herd of 1000 cattle as the inferno ripped through his property on New Year’s Day.

“It hit the farm at 1pm and it was all over by 1.10pm, it came through very fast,” Mr Miller told The Landreporter Samantha Townsend.

“It was ferocious, it was catastrophic.

“We had done all the preparation we could have, we had the equipment and water in place but we lost power, so we had to use generators to power everything.”

Mr Miller said the blaze destroyed 161 hectares – half of his farmland near Milton in the City of Shoalhaven.

The animals were saved after he herded them onto concrete where they stood under sprinklers until the fire front passed.

Before: The fire front races towards Robert Miller’s dairy farm near Milton on the NSW south coast at 1pm on New Year’s Day. Picture: Robert MillerSource:Supplied

After: By 1.10pm, just 10 minutes after the fire hit the farm, the property is reduced to ash. Picture: Robert Miller

After: By 1.10pm, just 10 minutes after the fire hit the farm, the property is reduced to ash. Picture: Robert MillerSource:Supplied

The massive Currowan blaze has already burned through more than 229,000 hectares

and has combined with two other blazes to create active fireground stretching

almost 100km from Nowra to Batemans Bay.

Mr Miller said he was preparing to defend his animals and what was left of his farm from similar conditions expected on Saturday when the mercury is expected to hit the mid 40s once again.

The fires have cut off access to fuel in the region, forcing Mr Miller to dump milk because he cannot get diesel to “run tractors to run the generators to run the dairy”.

He said he had been buying a semi-trailer’s worth of fodder every day to feed his herd for the past two months but could no longer “get the trucks in”.

“If we have to fight fires again, it’s going to be a tough call,” he told The Land.

“We can’t get trucks in and we lost a lot of silage. We have a lot of round bales that have been burned. We have a bit of fodder on hand but not much.”

Mr Miller saved his herd of 1000 cows by standing them on concrete under sprinklers until the fire front passed. Picture: Robert Miller

Mr Miller saved his herd of 1000 cows by standing them on concrete under sprinklers until the fire front passed. Picture: Robert MillerSource:Supplied

Beef farmer Steve Shipton (centre) is consoled by fellow farmers Bernie Smith (left) and Peter Mercieca in Coolagolite, NSW on New Year’s Day. Picture: Sean Davey/AAP

Beef farmer Steve Shipton (centre) is consoled by fellow farmers Bernie Smith (left) and Peter Mercieca in Coolagolite, NSW on New Year’s Day. Picture: Sean Davey/AAPSource:AAP

Mr Shipton inspects the burns on a calf he has just put down in his paddock. Picture: Sean Davey/AAP

Mr Shipton inspects the burns on a calf he has just put down in his paddock. Picture: Sean Davey/AAPSource:AAP

Mr Shipton’s paddock is littered with the bodies of cows after fire ripped through his Coolagolite farm on New Year’s Day. Picture: Sean Davey/AAP

Mr Shipton’s paddock is littered with the bodies of cows after fire ripped through his Coolagolite farm on New Year’s Day. Picture: Sean Davey/AAPSource:AAP

Earlier, NSW beef farmer Steve Shipton made world headlines when he told his heartbreaking story of having to shoot his scorched cattle as fire ravaged his farm at Coolagolite near Cobargo.

“I thought I was a goner,” Mr Shipton told AAP.

“The heat was horrendous. My eyes … I couldn’t see 20 feet last night.”

Mr Shipton thought he would be able to protect his home after getting his wife and kids inside and his stock out to a dirt clearing.

“It all happened so quick,” he said.

“I stayed out. I suppose I shouldn’t have but it just happened so fast.”

On Wednesday, a vet visited the farm to assess the injured animals to help Mr Shipton decide which would survive and which needed to be put down.

“There are some in there badly scorched,” he said. “You don’t want them to suffer.”

The Countegany/Dampier State Forest blaze raced through Cobargo and Coolagolite on Tuesday morning on its way to burning an area twice the size of Canberra.

Fire has claimed the lives of four people in the area, including Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, who died defending their dairy farm in the Bega Valley town of Wandella, 10km from Cobargo.

Authorities have urged people not to travel to the region, with the Rural Fire Service classifying all areas south of Batemans Bay “a tourist leave zone”.

Shoalhaven Emergency Operations Centre – which covers the coast from Berry, through Nowra, Jervis Bay, Lake Conjola, Ulladulla and down to Depot Beach – has also requested tourists to return home ahead of Saturday’s “extreme fire danger” forecast.

“We love our beautiful area and we love you visiting; however, we have a number of infrastructure issues that are being resolved and there remain ongoing significant fire impacts,” Shoalhaven City Council said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“There are a number of caravan parks that are closed and many small coastal villages have been isolated. Visitors in impacted areas are being asked to return home when it is safe to do so.

“Please if you do not need to be here, reconsider your travel plans and come back at a time when we are not impacted by fire.”

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