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17/12/2014

Eden Valley hit by fire again

Winemakers, grapegrowers and farmers are working alongside CFS volunteers this morning to mop up in the Eden Valley after two fires burned across the rolling hills yesterday, pushed along by strong westerly winds.

Stephen Henschke, winemaker and CEO of the iconic Henschke winery, spoke to ABC Adelaide’s breakfast program this morning and explained “a pretty scary day”.

“It was one of these situations where it was a fire ban day but it was relatively cool, very windy and very gusty. When this fire started it was very close to our Mt Edelstone vineyard, probably less than a kilometre away and near the Hutton Vale property, it just took off like a rocket.

“Within half an hour it had burnt past our winery.

“It was travelling anything up to about 60 or 70 kilometres per hour.”

Apart from the odd farmhouse, shearing shed and vineyard, this area features rolling grassland dotted with huge Red Gums and patches of scrub.

“Fortunately Hill of Grace was over the other side of a hill, probably two or three kilometres away from the fire. But sadly it burnt through John and Jan Angas’ vineyard on their Hutton Vale property,” Henschke said.

This is the second time this year the Eden Valley region has seen fire threaten properties and lives.

“Yesterday’s fire intersected with the fire that came through here back in January, in the Keynes property next to ours. It burnt through some of the same property, right through the same trees and things again.”

Henschke said January’s fire was “enormous”.

“It was 50 kilometres long by something like five to 10 kilometres wide.”

That fire prompted a brilliant Barossa community response, highlighted by huge donations of food coordinated through the Barossa Farmers Market. As news of the fire spread on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, offers of assistance were already appearing through social media channels.

The ABC has reported up to 200 firefighters and four aerial fire bombers were on hand yesterday to tackle the fire between Keyneton and Moculta, which scorched about 2000 hectares of grass and scrub, as well as a fire near Springton that burnt across about 200 hectares.

“Thankfully we had the fire bombers out quite quickly, the CFS crews came in from everywhere and all the local farmers were there with their ute packs and things. And they all did an almighty job,” Henschke said, praising the joint community effort. “They couldn’t tackle the fire front because it was just moving too fast, it was too dangerous. The focus was just to keep the flanks under control and stop it from spreading.”

In the coming days, as the shock of the fire eases, thoughts will turn to potential smoke taint within the grapes.

“It’s all under control. We’re somewhat shaken and stirred, but we survived.

“Our biggest concern now is residual smoke. We won’t really know until towards picking time, but like we did last year we will take samples and will send them to the Australian Wine Research Institute where they can actually test for different compounds that relate to smoke taint and check that everything is clear,” Henschke said.


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