The smile on Roger Sweetman’s face said it all. Relief.
It had been a bitter-sweet story for the Sweetman family of Cedar Creek, members of the Millfield Rural Fire Service in their spare time and beef cattle farmers full time.
With a raging blaze in nearby Pokolbin State Forest on December 30, Roger and his wife Lorraine could only watch on as the last of the water in their dam – already critically low – was scooped up and used to fight the fire.
To their relief it meant much of the forest was saved, but that their own 90 beef cattle were now in serious trouble.
Ironically, the helicopters could have used a large dam one kilometre away that is not used for stock.
In their desperation to keep their herd alive the Sweetmans approached the NSW RFS and the NSW Department of Primary Industries to have the water replaced - but it wasn’t that simple.
The RFS are not legally allowed to use water outside of firefighting purposes and were forced to deny the request.
Mrs Sweetman said the department gave them two 5000 litre water tanks and tried to book a water carter but there was a four to six week wait.
When Hunter Local Land Services livestock offer Kirstin Bisley heard about their plight she contacted me to see if the Buy A Bale Hunter campaign could help.
My phone call to NSW Fire and Rescue firefighter and mechanic Alix Merrick – who had just bought a water truck and started Branxton-Greta Water Cartage to help meet the demand – saw water flowing into the tanks hours before the cattle would have run out.
Mr Merrick arrived at the property at 5.45am – less than 24 hours after the call was made – with a truck load of water, which he donated.
“He is a genuine Aussie bloke and it was lovely of him to be able to help us so quickly. He understood our situation was very urgent.
We were getting very concerned about the welfare of our stock and Alix stepped in just in time. We’d like to thank him very much, he really does go beyond the call of duty,Lorraine Sweetman
“When we tried to buy water ourselves were were told there was a four to six week wait, and we would have been out of water by then.”
Mrs Sweetman also praised the Buy A Bale campaign, and Jim Kerr from DPI who also approached the NSW RFS and has been in regular contact for an update on their situation.