Waiting game begins for fire-ravaged producers
FOR Granite Belt producers Orlando Coco and Anthony Giacosa, rebuilding the infrastructure lost in this weekend's fire is just another kick in the guts for two farmers already struggling with drought.
The orchard growers were one of many Stanthorpe residents affected by the blazes which ravaged the region over the weekend.
While both were lucky to escape with their lives and houses, their farms were seriously damaged by the fire.
Along with costly hail netting destruction, the farmers said trees had been severely affected by the heat, although it would be difficult to see the full extent until crops began to blossom in a few more weeks, according to Mr Giacosa.
"It's very difficult to actually figure out what's happened," he said. "A lot are still dormant and, until they flower and leaf, it will be hard to assess what the damage was.
"But some of stone fruit trees were definitely scorched and we lost some trees around the edges but the rest will be a matter of wait and see."
While emergency services evacuated the town, both men, unable to risk losing their livelihoods, stayed on to 'do what they had to do', according to Mr Coco.
"They told us to evacuate but it's easier said than done when it's your property," he said.
"I had that adrenaline and felt the need to fight."
Mr Giacosa, whose family evacuated to Dalveen, leaving him to fight the fire alone, said watching the fire creep closer and closer to his property was a terrifying sight, unlike anything he'd seen before.
"You feel very helpless," he said. "All you can do is wait and pray that the fire abates and doesn't do too much damage."
Fighting unpredictable winds, Mr Coco said his rescue efforts were constant.
"You would think you had it under control but you would walk around to the other site of the orchard and it had flared up again," he said.
"The embers were flying everywhere."
For Mr Coco, who was barely scraping by without carting water before the fire, forking out money for new infrastructure was another cost he didn't need right now.
"It's just extra pressure, extra stress and another job to fix the (hail) net on my own cost," he said.
Despite that, both farmers made it clear they were determined to stick it out as the community rallied behind them.
"Apple trees are permanent and you only get one opportunity," Mr Coco said.
"When it burns down, you have to start from scratch, with infrastructure and netting and irrigation.
"You wonder do you do it or do you walk way, but Stanthorpe is a community that sticks by each other and we are determined to keep going."
"It's just something we have to get through and band together," Mr Giacosa said.