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Farming one week, firefighting the next

  • December 23, 2019
  • 2 min read

One of Fonterra’s Southland farmers travelled across the ditch to help fight the bush fires in Australia.

Graeme Appleby was part of the second fleet of New Zealand firefighters to be deployed to New South Wales to lend a hand in the battle against the devastating blazes burning out of control.

The Myall Creek Road fire, in the Richmond Valley area where Graeme was based, has burnt 113,000 hectares (one hectare being close to the size of a rugby field) and has a perimeter of over 500km.

“The fires are huge and volatile, and there’s a lot of wind. We’ve been strategically back burning around communities and houses to try and contain them.”

“We’ve been doing five night shifts on with one night off, working from 6pm in the evening to 8am the next morning.”

Graeme has been a rural firefighter with the Drummonds Voluntary Rural Fire Force, near Winton, for 13 years and has been training hard to be cleared for his first deployment overseas.

“The rural fire force are a good bunch of guys and girls doing stuff for the community, I really enjoy helping out.”

Michael Blomfield, Farm Source Business Development Manager for Southland-Otago says Graeme is a good sort, physically very fit, and he is sure Graeme would have pushed the younger firefighters along over in Australia.

Graeme is a much-valued member of the community. We all appreciate his efforts both in and outside of our Co-op, and I know over in Australia they would have appreciated his help too.

Michale Blomfield, Farm Source Business Development Manager, Southland-Otago

On the last night before he returned home to his farm, Graeme said things were looking more positive.

“There’s been some really nice rain here in the last few days, and the fires have died right down.

“The people in the Richmond Valley area are very grateful for us being here and have looked after us very well.”