Rebuilding lives in the wake of fires

THE ENDURING impact of the recent fires to the west and south of Coonabarabran was the tremendous loss of farm fencing.

For the past 10 or so days a team of youths from Tamworth, Armidale and Glen Innes, with their team leaders from the Back Track organisation, have been reconstructing fences destroyed by fire as well as floodgates washed away by torrential thunderstorms just six days after the fires passed through.

Basing themselves at the Tooraweenah showgrounds, BackTrack team manager Trevor "Dusty" Fenn said they'd repaired or replaced between 12 and 15 kilometres of fencing, providing farmers with enough fencing to hold stock on their properties as they begin the recovery process.

He said the level of damage was varied with some fences totally destroyed, the post burned level to the ground, while other fences had only their running strainer posts damaged and in need of replacement.

Some of the country was flat while other fences were along stony ridges which were only accessible by foot. This meant the boys had to physically carry heavy strainer posts to the lines before digging them in.

He said one farmer, who had not been affected by the fires nevertheless had lost 22 floodgates which meant he could not hold any of his stock on his holding.

The BackTrack team was helping out the BlazeAid volunteers who were also helping to re-fence properties, but because of the boys youth they were getting the more physical challenges, like National Park boundary fences, Mr Fenn said.

"Friday was a tough day, we had to carry all our gear, pliers, wire-strainers and posts to the job," he said.

He said the initial reaction of the landholders was, "apprehensive, but once we got started they really welcomed us".

The BackTrack team will stay at Tooraweenah for another two weeks and have garnered tremendous community support.

A dozen or so members of the Rotary Club of Dubbo South travelled to Tooraweenah on Friday to cook a barbecue and spend some time with the BackTrack team.

One of the members, Peter Scott said the club had first linked up with BackTrack and its founder Bernie Shakeshaft during one of their bi-annual Destination Outback rallies.

He said the club was sponsoring the BackTrack team to provide the fencing support as well as rallying donations of equipment, food other supplies, including 10 bags of dog food for the teams' collection of working dogs while they were in the field.

The BackTrack team earned its stripes in the wake of the 2011 floods that devastated the Mingoola and Bonshaw. The boys worked with local farmers for more than a fortnight in 40 degree heat to clear debris, cleared, repair and restack hay sheds and stock yards, and install thousands of dollars' worth of replacement fencing.

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