Apple and pear orchards in one of Australia’s key growing regions – Tasmania – have avoided the worst of the damage from the bushfires on the island state, according to an industry body.
Fires have been raging through the Huon Valley and surrounding area for more than a week. They are considered to be the worst fires on the island since 1967.
According to growers in the region, no orchards have yet been impacted and fruit remains unaffected, though eight homes have been lost state-wide, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL) said.
Andrew Scott of Scott Brothers orchard told APAL that emergency services can’t tackle the blaze in the heart of the forest, where fuel load is far too high, but they can tend the edges and fight when the fire moves out into less fuel-heavy areas.
“Emergency services deserve to be commended,” said Andrew. “They’ve thrown everything at it.”
Neighboring grower John Evans also commended the firefighters but said that the wind changes made the fire unpredictable.
“Fire services have done everything they can, but they can only tend the edges, not the front,” said John. “We’d been waiting for eight days, and suddenly it was on us. When it was at our fence line the only thing that saved us was the sea breeze.
“Compared to 1967, where it was all in one day, this has been slow torture.”
Both Andrew and John’s orchards have remained unaffected, APAL said.
“Fruit size is good, fruit quality is still good. Smoke taint isn’t an issue. We just need the rain to come through and wash the ash off the leaves,” said John. “Fruit’s still growing.”