Thursday, May 26, 2022

Community spirit ensures permanent fire water

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Chris Oldfield, Naracoorte Community News

Lucindale will never run out of fire water again thanks to a group of local farmers, backed by Naracoorte businesses, Rotary and Lions Clubs.

A tank of around 100,000 litres boasts a fully equipped bore, offering a permanent water supply to protect the area.

Firewater tank
The community-built fire water tank that should never run dry at the Lucindale Four Mile.
From left: Naracoorte Pumps and Electrical Anthony Bretag, Farmers Nigel Watson and Tom McWaters and Cr Trevor Rayner. Photo courtesy Naracoorte Community News

It is just over a year since Lucindale ran out of water fighting the January 11, 2021, Blackford fire.

Quick thinking volunteers at the time turned to the town’s duck pond, sucking out water to refill fire trucks, tankers and farm units, while water bombers flew to Naracoorte to be filled.

In the weeks that followed, peat continued to burn underground and local farmers and volunteers kept fighting the flare-ups.

Meanwhile, the issue of Lucindale running out of water played on the mind of local farmer Nigel Watson.

Like the town of Naracoorte and many farms in between, his property was in the fire’s path before those battling the blaze were able to contain it.

As the fire smouldered in peat nearby, Mr Watson approached his farming neighbour Tom McWaters and Lucindale’s only council representative, Cr Trevor Rayner.

“We needed a permanent fire water supply for Lucindale and the surrounding area,” Mr Watson said.

“We saw a few (fire water) tanks around the place and thought the Four Mile would be a good spot for one.

“Hopefully we will never need it, but now it is there if we ever do.

“A tank at the Four Mile offers good protection for our whole district.”

With the fire barely out, Mr Watson said the trio approached Dollars for Tanks – run by the Naracoorte Rotary and Lions clubs. 

“They funded the full cost of the tank, so we are really grateful to them,” he said.

He was also grateful to Lucindale LINC – the town’s planning and development board – for its full support of their Four Mile tank project.

As the tank could not be built on council land, the Ogilvie family generously gave up a piece of their paddock and had it fenced off.

Ben and Anthea Brinkworth, of Willoway Farming Pty Ltd, also offered their full support.

Donating their time and equipment, Mr Brinkworth soon had a bore dug and cased at the Four Mile.

Also at his and his wife’s own cost, Mr Brinkworth drilled and cased a new bore at the Lucindale airport.

“I was pleased to be able to help out,” Mr Brinkworth said.

“From personal experience on the day (January 11, 2021) and frustration of water supplies at the time, I was only too pleased to help.

“We’ve had two bad years in a row with fires, which is just unheard of and I spent the best part of a couple of months fighting the two fires (Keilira 2019-20, Blackford, 2021.)

“The feed situation is going to be similar this season – we’ve got a big fuel load, and these bad weather days are not getting any less.”

While Mr Brinkworth was drilling at the Four Mile, a local landowner passing by saw a bit of activity and stopped to see what was going on.

Not wanting to be named, he donated a large secondhand pump for the bore.

After many long days and nights, Tom McWaters – a qualified mechanic, engineer and craftsman – soon had it refurbished, re-painted and running smoothly at the press of a button.

Additionally, he created a lid for the bore from an old gas bottle.

“We’ve had other significant donations from a lot of local farmers,” Mr Watson said.

He believed that actioning an idea and bringing it to fruition happened quickly around Lucindale because of the “can do” attitude and community spirit of locals.

He paid tribute to the support of local farmers and their generous donations, several Naracoorte businesses and Naracoorte Rotary and Lions Clubs.

“They were only too pleased to help us and we are very grateful to them.”

Country Fire Service Lucindale group officer Patrick Ross – Lucindale’s 2022 Australian Citizen of the Year – praised locals and the Dollars for Tanks program.

“I have written a letter to thank them all, and on behalf of the Lucindale community and CFS, I’d like to thank everyone involved for their generosity with the Lucindale Tank Project,” he said.

“Nigel Watson, Tom McWaters and Trevor Rayner – the Ogilvie family gave them a piece of land because councils don’t like to have tanks on council land because they feel they have a whole lot of responsibility.

“The Rayner family built the pad – We Us An Co.

“(Ben and Andrea Brinkworth) came up with the drilling rig, dug the hole, supplied the bore casing and then said: ‘I’ve got a pump tester at Tintinara…”

“So, Trevor Rayner organised a truck with his son Scott and he and Tom McWaters went up, picked up the machine on a drop deck, came back, blew the bore and took it back to Ben and Andrea’s place.

“Then Ben went around to the airstrip and dug another bore free of charge, and supplied the bore casing absolutely free of charge.”

Then a landowner driving past said: “What’s going on here?”

“They said it was a bore for fire-fighting, so he said ‘Well, I’ll supply a pump’.

“So, I have written letters to all of those individuals thanking them on behalf of the CFS.

“It is a great project that is very obvious and I hope appropriate signage will go up so people will know.

“Then we have Dollars for Tanks – the Naracoorte Rotary and Lions. Nearly $200,000 went to putting tanks in the Kingston district and the Naracoorte Lucindale Council (district).”

CFS Region 5 commander John Probert praised the community spirit involved with the Four Mile project and thanked the Rotary and Lions clubs for their Dollars for Tanks program – including Rotary individuals who worked tirelessly at a State level to obtain further funding.

Mr Probert said all the tanks throughout the entire region had been very well used by both the CFS and farm units.

He believed the tanks were an excellent assent that enabled not only fire trucks and tankers to fill up quickly, but also private and farm units.

The council helped to supply some gravel for the Four Mile Tank.

CEO Trevor Smart said the Rotary and Lions Dollars for Tanks program had enabled more tanks to be installed throughout the area, including at the Four Mile site at Lucindale.

“Council plays a small part with these installations, and acknowledges and thanks community members, CFS, (Rotary) and Lions for their efforts,” Mr Smart said.

Naracoorte Community News 19 January 2022

This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 19 January 2022.

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