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Wimmera farmers did the right thing this harvest
The award-winning VFF and CFA Volunteer Harvest Guide trial was a success, with minimal harvest fires occurring this season. The guidelines have been making farmers more aware of the risks of harvesting during severe weather conditions.
While the poor harvest was a factor in the reduction of fires, the key indicators of the success of the project have been the willingness of farmers to adopt the concept and take responsibility for the risk themselves.
Captain of Tarranyurk Fire Brigade and VFF Grains Councillor Marshall Rodda said, “There have been two really big plusses to come out of the project. Farmers are now looking at the weather and making their own assessment as to when it is too dangerous to continue harvesting. The second thing they are doing is taking their firefighting equipment to the paddock, so it’s right there when they need it.”
The code of practice has encouraged the industry to take more responsibility for the risk of fires. The guidelines give farmers a tangible figure to work on, rather than a judgement that my differ from person to person.
Several champions in the district have been doing a great job to build rapport between CFA and the farmers, sharing information about when the Fire Danger Index reaches 35, which is considered unsafe to continue harvesting, and also letting farmers know when it has dropped back to safe conditions so they can resume. These champions include Colin Newell, Mick Morcom, Richard Tickner and Ross Johns.
Deputy Group Officer for the Warracknabeal Group of brigades Mick Morcom said, “The Harvest Guidelines have been widely accepted. The code itself has built awareness. People are asking about it and are now aware of the dangers and thinking about whether they should or shouldn’t harvest.”
The guidelines are also applicable post-harvest to other activities such as slashing, mulching or driving vehicles in stubble paddocks.
Warracknabeal Group Officer Colin Newell said, “The reason why we got involved on a voluntary basis was to avoid legislation that has come into place in other states.“
Western Australia has Harvest and Vehicle Movement Bans that can be put in place in addition to a Total Fire Ban. These bans are issued by a municipality under state legislation. They prohibit the movement of all vehicles and machinery in paddocks, with fines up to $5000 for non-compliance. It is hoped that Victorian farmers can avoid this sort of legislation coming into Victoria if the industry takes ownership of risk mitigation.
This project won the Fire Service Award for Partnership at the 2015 Fire Awareness Awards.
Mick Morcom said, “It’s great that people are getting smart about reducing the risk. Farmers did the right thing this season and it was a great outcome.”