When an out-of-control bushfire took off in South Australia’s south-east on Monday afternoon, farmer Hugh Bainger decided to stay and protect his property.

Key points:

  • The CFS says the Lucindale grass fire burned through more than 16,800 hectares
  • Farmer Hugh Bainger was forced to seek shelter in a bunker on his property as the fire tore through
  • At least four homes were lost, with other structures damaged

But as the fire rapidly travelled from Blackford towards Mr Bainger’s property at Avenue Range, west of Lucindale, he knew there was no escaping it.

“I realised there was no chance of it not coming to the homestead,” he said.

Using a garden hose to extinguish some vines that had caught alight on his house, Mr Bainger soon realised he could no longer withstand the heat.

“I thought the safest thing was to come here and get in the bunker. I did that for quarter of an hour, 20 minutes,” he said.

While he bunkered down, the fire raged outside.

“There were a few explosions in the sheds when they all caught fire, the gas bottles and a tyre,” Mr Bainger said.

“It made me think of what it must be like in a war when people are getting shot at and they’ve got to stay inside, or bombs are coming down.”

Mr Bainger eventually heard a truck overhead and emerged from the bunker to assess the damage.

Miraculously, his house had survived, but he estimated about a third of his 6,000-hectare property had been destroyed, and with that, hundreds of livestock.

“I don’t know how many livestock we’ve lost yet but it’s really cruel, it’s awful.”

The CFS estimates there have been ‘significant’ livestock losses in the bushfire.(ABC: Lincoln Rothall)

SA Police earlier said there were “significant losses” to livestock and fencing as a result of the fire, which is suspected to have started in a paddock near the south-eastern end of Mount Scott Conservation Park.

Police have since deemed the fire to be non-suspicious, and believe it started when an old burn-off reignited underground.

Couple loses ‘all worldly possessions’

Neil Watts, 70, and his wife Chris were holidaying at nearby Boatswain Point when their son called to say their family home of 40 years was alight.

Neil Watts lost his home of 40 years at Avenue Range when the bushfire swept through.(ABC: Lincoln Rothall)

“We got a phone call about 4:00pm, saying that somebody had driven past and they’d seen the house was smouldering,” Mr Watts said.

“So we left Boatswain Point and came straight here, and that’s when we found the place on fire, just about flames everywhere … couldn’t do much about it.”

The home was completely destroyed by the blaze, leaving the family with just the clothes they took on their trip.

“For me, it’s a bit of a numb feeling, what can you do when your whole house is on fire?” Mr Watts said.

“It might take a bit longer to sink in, to realise you’ve lost everything that you’ve had for 40 years … all your worldly possessions.”

Neil Watts and his wife, Chris, lost everything in the bushfire.(ABC: Sarah Mullins)

Mr Watts said he and his wife would stay in their holiday shack at Boatswain Point until they “figured out” where to live.

The CFS has confirmed at least three other homes in Lucindale were lost, with several more structures impacted.

Kingston SE still without power

SA Power Networks said its crews were patrolling 1,100 kilometres of power lines across the region, and had found 700 metres of downed lines between Lucindale and Kingston SE which are currently being repaired.

It said power was restored to Lucindale last night, and it is hoping to have power restored to Kingston SE tonight.

SA Power’s manager of corporate affairs, Paul Roberts, warned that high levels of solar generation in the region could hinder the restoration of power.

“We do have a problem there when we get to the middle of the day on a day like today, we’re going to get a lot of solar, so we’re asking people in Kingston to turn their inverters off,” Mr Roberts said.

“That will assist us in keeping supply to the hospital and getting supply to the service station.”

A service station in Lucindale was damaged by the bushfire.(ABC: Lincoln Rothall)