Small town rallies to save property from inferno
A STORM passed the North Burnett on Saturday, and for one grazing family in Eidsvold East, it brought an existential threat instead of relieving rain.
A lightning bolt from the dry storm hit a tree at Kerwee, one of the grazing blocks owned by the Payne family, and ignited a fire which patriarch Liam estimated swallowed 5000 acres of land.
Mr Payne said he was returning home from another block of theirs on Saturday afternoon when he saw a "puff of smoke" on the horizon.
Sure enough, it was Kerwee.
After wife Trudie put out a call-out on Facebook, Eidsvold rallied to protect one of their own.
Mrs Payne said there were more than 80 people who helped during the ordeal.
She hailed her "wonderful community" for stepping up, which involved people taking turns to held look after her two children, dropping off food and refreshments, making sandwiches for the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews on scene, and co-ordinating graders and dozers.
At the height of the inferno, four fire trucks, two water trucks, two graders and 16 firefighting slip-on units were desperately trying to protect Kerwee.
The publicans of The Star Hotel, Rick and Kinta Gitsham, even arrived with an emergency supply of beer to help lift the spirits of the exhausted battlers.
Mr Payne said the ordeal brought out the best in the region.
"It was community spirit, that's what people do in bush towns," he said.
"You can't rely on a big firetruck to rock up when you call 000, you've got to nip it in the bud."
The fire was finally contained behind breaks late on Monday evening.
"After no sleep, two full days and three nights of lots of manpower and machinery working we have the fire contained within the breaks at this stage," Mrs Payne said.
"Now just lots of patrolling and monitoring in the coming days. We are all safe, very exhausted but relieved."
Mr Payne said he was exhausted.
"Even in bed I was just thinking about the fire, so I didn't sleep much," he said.
The couple estimated they had lost about one-third of the pasture in their breeder paddocks.
Mr Payne said if Kerwee received rain in the next month, he was optimistic about not having to destock, but if the dry conditions prevailed, they might have to reduce their stock of roughly 800 head.
He echoed his wife's thanks, and said the outcome could have been very different without the support of the community.