There had been a drought just a few years ago but things were looking up. There had been rain, the stock was looking good and there was plenty of feed. In 10 short hours, 10,500ha were burnt, six homes lost, 580 cattle, 2451 sheep, 2990 tonnes of fodder and hundreds of kilometres of fencing.
By chance I had been with the vet that day and in late afternoon we were called up to assess the animals. It is something I will never forget and hope never to have to see again. The charred and still smoking landscape was disorientating, the smell of smoke, charred flesh and burnt hair thick in the air around the bodies of badly burnt animals. The worst off were calves, unable to get away fast enough. The most unfortunate were paralysed by their charred flesh, but still alive with airways destroyed and frothing from the nose. Others were laying down, but staggered up as we approached. The landscape was quiet with occasional plaintiff cries from injured animals punctuated by the brutal sound of gunfire. We shot those which couldn’t get up, though others would return to cull more as the extent of injury became more apparent.
Horses too were caught up in the inferno, a mare and her foal particularly caught our attention, suffering deep dermal and full thickness burns to their heads, legs and flanks. They would die in the coming days, despite our best care.