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“The scars will be there for a long time” – says Gavin

“The scars will be there for a long time” – says Gavin

Burnt ash lays on top of soil at a farm that once was surrounded by rolling hills of yellow crops in Freeling.

Gavin and Sherinne Schuster have been left with 95% of their land burnt by the Pinery Fire that devastated the countryside in a matter of four hours.

The Freeling farming family has lost 1,000 acres of wheat and a couple hundred acres of clover seed.

Gavin and Sherinne battled the blaze with their sons, Corbin and Harrison, and with their employee, Oliver Schmidt, to save sheds while their other son, Leighton, fought to save his parents home and piggery.

Sherinne said, “One of the sheds was burning from the inside. We lost a small hayshed, two tractors and a house that’s rented out. Absolutely gutted, completely destroyed.”

Initially, the family had heard there was a fire burning near Mallala. They had started to fill up tanks with water to help people in Mallala when they realised that might need the water for themselves.

“We saw the sky change. The outside area, instead of being bright sun shine, everything became muted like an eclipse,” said Sherinne.

“With the wind like this, if the smoke is going over us then the flames are coming to. It was roaring that flame… Just before the flames came and you could see the wind swirling around… There was ash and dust, it was like a washing machine but it was air not water.”

Gavin fought alongside his wife against the flames that threatened his sheds. He said for a lot of people in the area, the devastation hasn’t sunk in for many in the community.

The Freeling area is predominately a supplier of straw, which Gavin believes will possibly impact the price.

“It’s a game changer for the rural community. It’s a leveller and a game changer. It brings everyone back to the same starting point,” said Gavin.

“People are out there helping their neighbours. I think it is going to bring back community spirit… locally people are thankful that they haven’t lost any lives.

For the full story see this week’s edition of The Leader.