A ‘gut-wrenching’ experience

Ray Place reflected on the Black Saturday bushfires a decade after they destroyed 1300 hectares of farmland at Weerite-Pomborneit.

Ray Place stood in a lookout tower on Mount Porndon on Black Saturday and watched his own farm burn.

The long-time country firefighter and Weerite community member had watched the February 2009 blaze burn along the train lines until it reached Church Road, and his gut dropped when the wind changed and blew it north.

“I watched the whole thing unfold,” he said.

“It was a bit gut-wrenching; I watched 300 acres of my land get burnt,” he said.

“My wife was home, but thankfully it was the back half of the farm away from the house or the dairy.”

Mr Place soon left the tower to join CFA firefighters on the ground, as they worked overtime to protect Weerite and Pomborneit district residents, homes and livestock from the fast-moving fire.

“I’d say we were well prepared; all the local CFA brigades were manned, and from the point when the fire started to when the trucks hit the road would have been less than a minute,” he said.

“Most of the locals are CFA volunteers and all are pretty switched on when it comes to a bad day around here.

“If the lights start flickering, we know something has happened – that’s our first sign,” he said.

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