‘Great unknown’: Batlow orchardist waits for outcome of horror day

Greg Mouat is among many from Batlow awaiting the outcome of day’s

The Mouats have been in the Batlow region since the 1850s, but they’ve not faced a fire threat like that confronting the apple town of Batlow today.

Greg Mouat left his apple orchard north of the town on Batlow Road when the leave zone for the Batlow area was declared by the RFS earlier this week, and is now awaiting the outcome of today, when extreme fire weather is predicted.

He’s one of hundreds from the Batlow community who have exited the town this week, crowding into friends and family houses, or heading to official evacuation site Equex in Wagga.

“We prepared as well as we possibly could in the time we had, moving the machinery, securing the house, gettings things as ship-shape as possible,” Mr Mouat said.

“It’s the great unknown at the moment. There’s great concern about losing our house and infrastructure,

“The forecast is pretty horrendous.”

The Mouat farm lies to the north of the town and is predicted to be in the firing line when gusting west-north-westerlies pick up today from about 11am and into this evening, pushing fire in the Greenhills State Forest their way.

It’s not just the orchard infrastructure that is a concern.

“If the fire comes up the valley from the north with the wind, and hits that hill of the telecommunications tower on Batlow trig site, it’ll just go. It’s heavily timbered up the valley from the north and there’s a huge amount of fuel on the floor of the bush.”

The orchard is part of the famous Batlow Apples brand, made up of farmers throughout the district, including small family farmers like the Mouats.

There’s a great fear the Batlow Apples’ infrastructure in the township – including the packing complex and cool store – may be damaged.

“Even if some orchards are untouched and able to harvest a crop, if the packing complex infrastructure is down, we’ll have nowhere to store fruit. Where do we get it packed?”

The Dunns Road Fire is impacting the three major economic drivers of this region’s economy – forestry, apples and agriculture. Whatever happens today, the rebuilding process will be a long one.

“The Batlow Fruit company is the economy of Batlow,” Mr Mouat said. “Will smaller family orchards like us be prepared to rebuild? Will we have the capital?

“What will be left of the town? There’s a lot of questions …”

Still, whatever happens at his property today, Mr Mouat said there was always a positive side.

“We’re safe and sound,” he said. “if the whole thing burns to the ground, so be it. There’s not a damn thing I can do about.

“I just want to get today out of the way, so I can get back up to Batlow and see what’s happened.

“There’s a cool change for tonight – we have to get to that point.”