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Angus Campbell: Bushfire stories from our people

By Jessie Stewart

On the Friday before Christmas, Angus Campbell and his family braced for strong hot winds and a 40 degree day in the Adelaide Hills region. His cattle headed up to the top paddock, which they rarely do before sunset. The animals sensed what was coming before he even knew. That afternoon, he was meant to be hosting the Ray White Woodside Christmas party. Angus sent his wife and children to stay with family in Mt Barker, while he stayed put and began implementing the prepared ‘fire plan’.

Angus had two hours to roll out his written fire plan which included filling bathtubs up with water, filling clamshells and buckets with water,  using sandbags to seal up the gutters and filling them with water, and putting sprinklers on the roof. This is a physically exhausting job for one person, particularly with the addition of thick smoke, high winds and soaring temperatures.

After a fire ripped through townships in the area, there was an afternoon change of wind which quickly pushed it towards his property. He spotted the fire at a ridge 500m from his house, not long after finishing the fire plan implementation. Within 6-7 minutes an “army of fire” attacked his property and wiped out the entire 61 acres, but sparing their home.


“The lesson that I learnt was that if you are not 100% prepared to fight the fire on your own, get out. It was too windy for the fire bombers and the CFS were stretched to capacity. Staying in the fire is critically dangerous – our neighbours left and drove through the flames and nearly hit the Channel Seven News crew. I didn’t see any news footage for about a week. The last thing you need to do is sit down and watch the news when it is about your situation,” Angus explained.  

Because the fire was so ferocious, there were 250 year old gum trees falling everywhere. “Nobody could get in and out of the area – so I was isolated for a few days. I was living off black coffee, and the power and phone service was in and out.”

Angus’s livestock did survive and he feels incredibly lucky. They were very burnt and he had to make sure they were taken care of.  Since all the fences were wiped out, everyone’s livestock was combined, so Angus and his Father attempted to muster his cattle back to our property and help his neighbours, with all the cattle yards still burning. The cattle that survived are still beside themselves and spooked.

“After a couple of days, the family came home. I am glad my children didn’t witness that. My three year old and one and a half year old would have been very traumatised watching the fire approaching”

“After the Sampson Flat bushfires only a few years ago, everyone said that we wouldn’t see anything like this for at least another 15 years. It’s five years later and this one has eclipsed all fire events in the Adelaide Hills region. In Australia, our way of life and our lifestyle will now be different.”

Angus estimates that of his immediate neighbours, one in two homes have been burnt to the ground, with many being properties he has sold and leased through his real estate business.

“I am still getting phone calls from people still wanting to live in the Adelaide Hills and wishing to live in a bushy retreat. I expect demand will probably remain the same. People will feel that they can “get a bargain”. Stock levels will be down, so anyone with properties on the market now should be able to maintain their prices.”

“The rental market has increased by 20 percent overnight. Investment properties are very very scarce for tenants so there is a huge rental demand.”

One of the main issues that Angus and his rural community are facing is fencing. Fires have ripped through everywhere and fencing supplies are down. Rates for fencing have gone from $4 per meter up to $30 per meter.  That is $100,000 for Angus’s fencing alone.

“Most insurance policies are not covering fencing or only covering up to a certain distance or certain dollar figure. Financially there does need to be a focus on helping farmers, as well as the firies of course.”

Blazeaid have helped many in the area already, and are doing a wonderful job. We would like to thank them and encourage people to donate.”

Angus Campbell – owner Ray White Woodside (SA).

Images were taken on Angus Campbell’s property last week. Thankfully his home was narrowly spared.

Angus’ images, now are the front of the Beyond the Bricks campaign.

“It is quite a surreal and humbling experience to see this image of my property used for the industry fundraiser. I actually just took the photo from my phone, but it turned out to be quite striking and stark.”

Now more than ever, Australia needs our support. Our campaign, #BeyondtheBricks provides not only assistance during this crisis but to those affected in the aftermath. If you’d like to donate or get involved by setting up your own fundraiser, visit www.beyondthebricks.com.au/raywhite

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