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Australia - Generations of hard work wiped out

It will take farming families hit by the fires around Esperance years to get back on their feet and some may never recover, according to industry experts.

Farmers were forced to flee as homes, machinery, infrastructure, crops and livestock worth millions of dollars was consumed by blazes started by lightning strikes on Sunday.

Insurance is expected to cover some but nowhere near all the losses that will run into tens of millions of dollars.

The fire is estimated to have devastated more than 155ha of farm land in some of WA’s most productive districts.

It swept through farms where the harvest of bumper wheat and barley crops was about to hit top gear.

Some of the best paddocks were expected to produce up to five tonnes per hectare.

Valuable cattle and an estimated 15,000 sheep were also lost based on initial reports of the devastation.

“To have a fire destroy crops and livestock on the back of what was going to be a bumper season is heartbreaking,” WAFarmers chief executive Stephen Brown said.

Guy Green, whose family-run operations were destroyed, summed up the feelings of those worst hit.

Mr Green said the family had lost their farms, houses, machinery and precious memories.

“The place I where grew up, made me the person I am today and was to be my future is completely gone,” he said.

“Everything my grandpa and dad worked hard for.”

The farms districts that deliver into the Esperance port, including Salmon Gums, Scaddan, Grass Patch and Stockyard Creek, had been on target to produce a record harvest of more than three million tonnes.

Neil Weckert, who runs a grain cleaning and drying business in Esperance, said the fires had come at a terrible time.

“Most of the standing crop was wheat and barley,” he said.

“Insurance will cover some of it but it won’t cover it all because insurance works on averages and this was a bumper crop,” he said.

“It is a strong community and they will pull together to help. So many people have lost everything and the fires are still burning.”

CBH shut down operations in the fire zone and is offering support to its grower-members who have suffered losses.

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