THE heat may have gone out of the fires that ravaged parts of the Wheatbelt, but fourth-generation farmer Leigh Strange is worried about the after-burn.
Mr Strange said he was concerned about the longer-term impact on the mental wellbeing of farmers hardest hit by the fires that destroyed homes, infrastructure and livestock.
The Bruce Rock farmer is a member of the Ardath volunteer fire brigade, one of five brigades in the local shire, that battled to save lives and homes earlier this month (February 6).
In the aftermath of that horrific day when temperatures reached upwards of 44C and strong winds fanned the flames, he is one of scores of volunteers now helping with the clean up.
“My worry is for those who copped it going forward,” Mr Strange said.
“When it all calms down, the adrenaline is gone and the people who came to help and their machinery have gone home.
“They’re people who are proud of their farms and there are some real concerns for those guys.”
Mr Strange said the fire had left paddocks looking like a moonscape on top of infrastructure and sheep losses.
The local community and volunteers from further afield are offering plenty of support in the wake of the fire.
Dozens of volunteers are helping manage livestock, cart water, mend fences and clear fallen trees.
“We have a week-long rolling schedule with probably 70-80 volunteers,” Mr Strange said.
At the height of the blaze, Mr Strange tweeted, “Been a crazy day fighting this bastard all day. And out here ALL the people fighting the fire are volunteers.”
Speaking a few days later, he said city folk were often unaware of the role played by volunteers.
“When there is a fire, the first responders are farmers,” Mr Strange said.
“They jump in their equipment and they risk themselves and their gear to go and fight that fire.
“I don’t think it is understood outside the farming areas that that’s the way it operates.
“Then the local bushfire brigades turn up with their trucks, and they’re all farmers and locals and volunteers as well.
“With a fire like this one you are always going to have near misses, but the fact that nobody was killed or seriously injured is a testament to the way the vollies go about what they do.”
Mr Strange said one of the strengths of volunteer brigades was knowledge of local conditions and the capability of each member of teams drawn from the local community.
“You know the people, you know the equipment they have got, you know how they operate and you know you can work together in teams,” he said.