The bushfires that have closed major highways on the Nullarbor could end up costing the economy millions of dollars and cause widespread food shortages. About 140 firefighters are battling eight fire fronts that have cut off the small WA town of Norseman, about 700 kilometres south-east of Perth, for extended periods since the first blaze began on December 16.
The situation escalated recently when authorities advised the Eyre Highway -the only sealed road linking Western Australia and South Australia- would be closed for at least the next five days.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Peter Sutton said the catastrophic fire conditions in the region were not helping, with the mercury hitting 47oCelsius in Caiguna yesterday.
"We are seeing new fires each day and are expecting a lightning belt to come through here soon with dry lightning and we expect that will start additional fires," Mr Sutton told abc.net.au. "We've got 140 firefighters on the ground, 20 machines are working, and those machinery operators, I've just got to commend them and also the firefighters who are working in very, very trying conditions. "We had eight aircraft within the fire zone, which include four waterbombers and they are doing an amazing job for us."
Situation at Tumbarumba
On 1 January 2020, the bushfires currently burning in southern NSW have impacted the Tumbarumba berry farm, which accounts for around 6% of VTH’s berry plantings. VTH understands the Dunns Road fire, which has burnt over 130,000ha of land according to NSW Rural Fire Service, has damaged the packing shed but it is understood the plants have not been materially impacted. Assets owned by the tenant, including the packing equipment and several vehicles, have also been damaged. The safety of on-farm personnel is always of paramount importance with VTH’s tenant having conducted a full site evacuation prior to the impact from the fire front.
According to weeklytimesnow.com.au, Australia’s most famous apple growing region is at risk of being decimated. Growers have been furiously watering their trees ahead of an evacuation deadline of noon today.
The fire service said “the township will not be defendable”, with embers from the fire likely to land in a pine plantation adjacent to the town. The fire is predicted to be so fierce it is likely to cover vast areas in very little time.
Batlow has been synonymous with apples for almost 100 years. The town’s long history of growing the fruit began in 1922 when it was discovered the area, on the edge of the Great Dividing Range in southern NSW, has the ideal climate. About 10 per cent of Australia’s apples are grown around Batlow and Tumbarumba.