A Need for Feed Hay Convoy provides much needed relief to the isolated town of Buchan in the aftermath of the Victorian Bushfire crisis. Picture: Mark Stewart
A Need for Feed Hay Convoy provides much needed relief to the isolated town of Buchan in the aftermath of the Victorian Bushfire crisis. Picture: Mark Stewart

‘Down, not out’: Struggling farmers' tears as relief arrives

For the residents of Buchan, two gifts were delivered on Sunday - one from the back of a truck and one from the sky.

As almost a dozen trucks carrying hay rolled into town, much needed rain pelted the burnt earth.

Locals gathered on their balconies and outside the general store to watch the generous donations arrive.

A group of women waited in the rain, waving to the drivers as the convoy drove by and screaming "thank you" from the bridge over Buchan river.

 

The convoy of trucks arrived in fire ravage areas on Sunday. Picture: Mark Stewart
The convoy of trucks arrived in fire ravage areas on Sunday. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

The convoy of trucks travelled from Ballarat to Buchan. Picture: Mark Stewart
The convoy of trucks travelled from Ballarat to Buchan. Picture: Mark Stewart

Many of them had a week earlier sheltered in the town's centre as fire raged around them.

Twenty-four homes were destroyed and loved local Mick Roberts was killed.

Despite the destruction heaped upon Buchan, in the black and burnt paddocks cattle, sheep and horses remained.

VIC FIRES: HOW YOU CAN HELP

Sophie Sandy said it was an emotional sight to see the feed arriving in town.

"It's a big deal, there's a lot of value in the hay," she said.

"If you look at the paddocks, there's no grass, the animals hungry,"

"All the country is black," she said.

Locals lined the streets to give them a hero’s welcome. Picture: Mark Stewart
Locals lined the streets to give them a hero’s welcome. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

Emotions were high as the trucks made their way into town. Picture: Mark Stewart
Emotions were high as the trucks made their way into town. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

The hay provides much needed relief to the isolated town. Picture: Mark Stewart
The hay provides much needed relief to the isolated town. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

The trucks carting hay also carried toiletries, clothes and non-perishable items for the locals. Picture: Mark Stewart
The trucks carting hay also carried toiletries, clothes and non-perishable items for the locals. Picture: Mark Stewart

"Not everyone in town has hay; some can no longer afford it and many who had stacks lost it during the fire," Ms Sandy said.

"We're just so grateful," she said.

Sheep farmer Tim Woodgate said the delivery of feed would go some way to help the town to keep going, but they were still facing an uphill battle.

"We've been smashed by drought and then this happens," Mr Woodgate said.

"It's been really tough,"

"But this is great," he said.

Buchan local Jeff McCole, 70, lost his home on Monday night, fleeing just before it was engulfed in flames.

It was the second time his home had burnt down, after an electrical fault razed his house several years earlier.

But Monday's inferno was like nothing he'd ever experienced, he said.

"I saw it coming over the hill and I just thought get out, cause there was no surviving," he said.

Buchan resident Jeff McCole, 70, lost his home to fire for the second time in under a decade. . Picture: Mark Stewart
Buchan resident Jeff McCole, 70, lost his home to fire for the second time in under a decade. . Picture: Mark Stewart

 

Buchan sheep farmer Tim Woodgate collects feed from a Need for Feed Hay Convoy. Picture: Mark Stewart
Buchan sheep farmer Tim Woodgate collects feed from a Need for Feed Hay Convoy. Picture: Mark Stewart

If he'd waited any longer he would have lost his life too, he said.

"We're just going to have to start again, right from scratch," he said.

"You just get a big sinking feeling," she said.

Despite losing his house, Mr McCole's sheep and some 30 acres of land survived and the delivery of hay almost brought him to tears.

"It's fantastic. The people are so generous," he said.

"Australians are unreal, I bloody love them."

Asked if he would rebuild, Mr McCole said: "Oh yeah, same spot, third time."

The trucks carting hay also carried toiletries, clothes and non-perishable items for the locals.

One convoy of almost 30 vehicles set out from Ballarat toward Omeo, Ensay, Buchan and Tambo Crossing.

A Need for Feed Hay Convoy provides much needed relief to the isolated town of Buchan in the aftermath of the Victorian Bushfire crisis. Picture: Mark Stewart
A Need for Feed Hay Convoy provides much needed relief to the isolated town of Buchan in the aftermath of the Victorian Bushfire crisis. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

A Need for Feed Hay Convoy provides much needed relief to the isolated town of Buchan in the aftermath of the Victorian Bushfire crisis. Picture: Mark Stewart
A Need for Feed Hay Convoy provides much needed relief to the isolated town of Buchan in the aftermath of the Victorian Bushfire crisis. Picture: Mark Stewart

Two hundred trucks were estimated to have headed across the state.

Ensay local Louise Oswald-Adams said it was "beautiful" to see the convoy arrive with drivers giving up their time to ship the items in to those in need.

She also said the sound from animals watching the feed being unloaded was "unbelievable".

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke welcomed the deliveries but warned times would be tough for months to come with farmers also in desperate need of equipment, fuel, front end loaders, fencing materials and new farming infrastructure.

"It is still too early to tell, but there will be tens of thousands of losses in terms of livestock, sheep and cattle," he said.

"Some areas will be worse than others.

"We are seeing a really good effort with people donating and we will be requiring fodder for a very long time to come."

In one of the worst hit areas of Omeo, local residents have started a Go Fund Me page to help buy a bale of hay for a farmer.

The area lost 20,000 hectares and locals have called for $9000 to start.

The post said many farmers had been unable to tend their properties in recent weeks as they were helping fight the fires for their communities.