YUMALI-NETHERTON FIRE

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:37): I rise today to talk about a terrible event that happened in my local area 13 days ago, on 19 November 2020—the Yumali-Netherton fire, which started about 10 kilometres from my home and farm at Coomandook. It was started by a powerline falling into the crop, affected 15 properties and ran for almost 30 kilometres. In fact, it was such a big fire that, talking to many experienced farm firefighters and CFS firefighters, it was the worst fire they had fought locally in 50 years.

It is said that it ran quicker than the Pinery fire of several years ago, and it was very dangerous to battle, burning almost 5,000 hectares with the loss of at least 300 sheep, some of which had to be put down afterwards. The sheep were mainly across three farms, and there are still some suffering, with the odd one passing away because of the effects of fire. At least 100 kilometres of fencing was destroyed, 2,700 hectares of crop was lost, 400 tonnes of stored barley was damaged and 1,285 hectares of hay and fodder were burnt.

Four people were hospitalised because of the fire, and our thoughts are with Damien Heym, who suffered 35 per cent burns, having been caught with the farm fire unit. The next day, all he could worry about were his colleagues on the fireground. He is currently in the world-acclaimed Royal Adelaide Hospital burns unit and, sadly, he may not be home for Christmas, but I heard he got up and about yesterday, so that is one bonus.

Judith Johnson had her face, hands and legs burned, and my brother Graeme had a severely burnt hand, which was the only thing exposed outside his farm fire unit. It was good to see him last night, wearing a glove, but he is still going through procedures. So three people had operations for burns, and young Tom Heym was hospitalised overnight for burns injuries as well.

Many farm fire units and CFS crews attended. There were strike teams from all over South Australia. I saw trucks from Crystal Brook, Salisbury and Seaford right throughout the Barossa. It was great to see that support for the Yumali-Netherton fire. There was said to be a truck there from Port Augusta as well, but I did not see it.

The CFS completed 48 airdrops with nine planes, with more than 110,000 litres of product dropped. I was proud that my two sons did such a good job. I had Mack, my 19 year old, driving my farm fire unit for the first time. He said, 'Dad, I can't see for the smoke.' I said, 'Don't worry about it, mate, no-one else can.' It was pretty solid. Angus and I were on the back and, because we were one of the early ones there, I soon had to give the order: 'We've got to get out of here. We can't manage the effect on land. We need to help save sheds and houses.'

I am very proud of the whole crew who attended, whether they be farm fire units or CFS. We did not lose one house. Yes, we lost some sheds and a harvester. It got so hot that it blew the windows out of the front of one house when the fire went past, but every house was saved. Certainly, there were lots of losses, but saving those houses was amazing. Obviously, I personally know the farmers affected because they are my friends and my neighbours.

I contacted the chief executive from Minister Basham's office that night, Thursday night, and PIRSA support was fantastic, with people down the next day assisting and checking out which sheep needed to be shot. They brought a bolt gun down as well, and sadly that day we had to shoot probably close to 200 sheep; I personally shot 22 for Theresa and Gwyn (Theresa works for me). It was very traumatic for people to see their stock being shot, so we made sure that they were not around, and I thank McArdle Earthmoving for supplying an excavator to bury that stock.

Last night, we had a fire meeting at the Coomandook Hall organised by the Coorong council. About 70 people were at that meeting, and I want to compliment Mayor Simmons and his team from the Coorong council for getting that meeting on track. Certainly, more assistance has been offered by PIRSA, Family and Business Support Scouts, the Coorong council, local agronomists and Platinum Ag.

In the final couple of seconds, I want to say that I am certainly keeping the Premier, Minister Basham, Minister Tarzia and the rest of my colleagues informed to make sure that we get the right results for these people to recover into the future.