Laharum Grove ravaged by fire; but home, restaurant safe

LAHARUM Grove’s owners Deirdre and Richard Baum hope their business will be back on its feet within two years after almost all of the grove’s 11,000 olive trees were ravaged by bushfire on Thursday.

Mrs Baum said the couple would know more about the fire’s long-term effects following an assessment on the property on Wednesday.

Despite the devastation, the Baums consider themselves lucky.

“We’re middle of the road,” Mrs Baum said.

“The fire wiped out our whole grove, but our house and restaurant were saved.”

Mrs Baum said Laharum Grove would not be able to harvest this year.

“Apparently there were two fires that went through the grove – one was slower and the other went through very, very fast,” she said.

“Quite a few trees are singed and olives have been burnt, but they should be fine – hopefully even next year.

“There were other trees that were burnt right down that will take longer, but most of the trees are still standing and they will recover.

“Fingers crossed we will be fine in one to two years.”

The Baums were away on holiday when fires broke out in the Grampians National Park on Wednesday night, sparked by lightning strikes. 

“It was nice not to be there, but it was also very hard,” Mrs Baum said.

“We were getting reports from people, but because we were not there we couldn’t do anything to help our neighbours.”

Mrs Baum praised her neighbours for the efforts they put in during the bushfires.

“We live in an amazing community,” she said.

“We had someone come and grab our passports and birth certificates and then someone came at the last minute and grabbed mementos off the sideboard.

“One of our neighbours built a fire-break around the house – that’s what saved it. If not for that, the house wouldn’t still be standing.

“We were so lucky.”

The Baums are waiting for roads to be re-opened so they can start operating their restaurant.

“We’ve had the grove for eight years and we opened our restaurant three months ago,” she said. 

“We have power now, so the only thing stopping us from operating is access to the place.”

Mrs Baum said community members would continue to support each other through the recovery phase.

“We’ve had so much support already, it’s quite overwhelming really,” she said.

“We would like to give a huge thank you to everyone who helped us out, and of course to all of the fire-fighters and volunteers who put themselves in danger and worked so hard to save everyone else.”

Mount Zero Olives, about eight kilometres north of Laharum Grove, fared much better.

Owner Neil Seymour said he was dismayed by his neighbours’ plight. 

“That’s a very, very sad story. I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.

“There’s a small part of our farm where the trees were singed, but there was no infrastructure damage.

“We were very fortunate.”

Mr Seymour was present when fire struck his property.

“We watched as it raced up under the trees,” he said.

“It was a pretty frightening experience. The three people who were with me were pretty traumatised by it all.”

Mr Seymour said Mount Zero would return to business as usual, with its cafe operating between Thursday and Sunday.

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