(Pictured above L-R Adrian Findaly PFG Australia, Ron Dale, James Peel JTP Machinery)

With the fires bearing down in his property at Quaama in the Bega Valley region of New South Wales, Ron Dale by his own admission pulled a sleight of hand.

“We got warning at about 1am when the neighbours rang,” said Ron. “We could see the fire coming from the west and could hear the roar. We made the decision at 2am to wake everyone in the house. Being New Year’s Eve we had about 20 people staying, include six grandchildren. By 3am they were all gone except me and my son-in-law. We didn’t tell our other halves – they thought we were following in another car.”

Sandwiched by the typically picturesque Wadbilliga National Park on one side and the Biamanga National Park on the other, the valley copped the full brunt of the recent bushfires, with flames coming from different directions. Ron’s farm, some 150 acres of pasture with sheep and cattle being run, was directly in its path.

“The first fire came from the west and hit my neighbour’s place. This was at 6am. Then from the north – it actually took my shed before we saw the fire coming. Visibility was practically zero at this stage. We stopped the first front about 20 metres in front of the house and then picked a dead point, an area already burnt, and fought the fire from there. 

“I actually broke our own rule, though, which was not to go beyond the hose limit. I thought we were beating this thing and went beyond the limit and the fire flashed over me. It burnt some of my hair and I’m steroids due to smoke inhalation. My son-in-law thought he had lost me; I had to go back through the fire. 

“Then the next front hit at about 6.30am but we kept it out. My son-in-law was fighting it with the hose in one hand and a stubby in the other! But then the southern front hit and that did all the damage. We lost a 100 year old shed, plus outbuildings, all pasture and fencing. Our stock came through okay but three or four days later some of the younger cattle started to lie down and die because of smoke inhalation.”

Ron also lost his workhorse – a Kioti tractor – which had been purchased from James Peel at JTP Machinery in Brogo. In addition to the loss of infrastructure and livestock, Ron said that losing the tractor made him feel “pretty knackered”. 

Enter James; as part of PFG’s Fire Relief 2020 program he quickly organised a replacement, allowing Ron to press ahead with mopping up operations around the farm.

“We have a Kioti PX1052 cab tractor with 4-in-1 bucket,” said James, “going from farm to farm for people to use to clean up and move hay around. Ron was first on the list.”

As soon as the Kioti was dropped off Ron set to work, mindful of the dangers of fallen timber and smouldering trees. He moved around the farm to pick up burnt machinery and clear the timber before passing on the tractor to neighbours who used it for similar purposes. Despite the close shave and losses, Ron was grateful for the donation and certainly hasn’t lost his trademark humour.

“The first thing I did with the Kioti was stack hay inside the hayshed. Of everything we lost, the irony is the hayshed is still standing. Can you believe that?”