Gingin fires 2024

2024 has not started well at Avowest. 

We had good conditions for pollination in spring 2023 and early fruit set looked promising.  Unfortunately, November 2023 was Perth’s hottest on record.  Temperatures around 40oC caused a lot of fruit drop. 

Sunday, January 14th

Things got worse on Sunday, January 14th when fires that had been burning in Lennard Brook flared up and were driven by strong easterly winds towards Avowest farms.  Adrian was on site and spent the whole day working with other firefighters trying to limit the damage. 

Alan set irrigation going, including fire sprinklers that had been set up to avoid damage to critical infrastructure.  Power lines were burnt out, but the backup generator on one farm had kicked in. 

There were limits with what could be done driving a computer, so he picked up our firefighting unit and Craig who was crazy enough to help out. 

It was pretty depressing what we saw when we got to Gingin:

Most of the trees on the boundary had been burnt to varying degrees.  There wasn’t any time to worry about them as there still fires burning everywhere.  Craig and Alan mopped up fires on one side of Lennard Brook, while Adrian was still trying to stop the fire front on the other side.  The heroes of the sky were doing their job.

Without the help, things would have been a lot worse.

As bad as the avocado trees were, our pumping infrastructure survived.  The backup generator and fire sprinklers worked perfectly.

The next day

The next day gave us a better idea of the damage.  The damage to boundary trees had already been noted.  One block of trees on drip irrigation was very badly burnt. 

The drip system is very efficient with water application but there was no green grass around the trees.  Those trees are going to struggle to survive.  The trees further inside that were watered by sprinklers were largely undamaged.  A lot of irrigation in the field had been burnt.

Gingin was already in the middle of a heat wave before the fires.  The temperature at the farm had hit 43oC on the day of the fire.  The next day we had a cool change and it was only 39oC. 

The race was on to get irrigation working again. 

Adrian, Arthur and Alan received some valuable help from Elaine and Robert as well as Stewart.  By the end of the day 95% of the avocado irrigation was working again. With that done Alan had a chance to evaluate other damage. 

The equipment for measuring soil moisture was a casualty:

Soil moisture sensor burnt

So was our trial block of pomegranates

All Pomegranate trees burnt

There were however some miraculous survivors, including Gary’s sheep and Mal’s picnic table

Two months on… the Recovery

It’s now two months since the fire.  How are things looking? 

The trees that were not burnt look good but there isn’t much fruit on them.  I guess fires and no water on a 43oC day will do that. 

The burnt trees in areas irrigated by sprinklers are coming back

Avocado tree recovery after fire

The block of trees irrigated by drip irrigation have died.  They will need to be ripped out and replaced

Drip irrigation Avocado trees did not survive fire

Lennard Brook still looks sad

Last words…

Hopefully we will get some rain soon to start healing the countryside. The last fire that affected Avowest was in Carabooda in 1992.  I’m hoping it will be 30 years before there will be another.

Update…

3 months on from the Jan 2024 fires

Lennard Brook trees new leaf growth. Nature’s resilience.

Lennard Brook trees new leaf growth
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