Symons family will rebuild Turkey Lane merino stud after miraculous escape from Kangaroo Island bushfire

Brian Robins of Turkey Lane Merinos cleans up fences with Army Reservists Nicholas Pryzibilla and Joel Trace of the 10/27 Brigade from Keswick, Adelaide.
Brian Robins of Turkey Lane Merinos cleans up fences with Army Reservists Nicholas Pryzibilla and Joel Trace of the 10/27 Brigade from Keswick, Adelaide.

The Symons family will rebuild the Turkey Lane Merino stud after it was destroyed by the firestorm that hit the west end of Kangaroo Island on January 3.

Family elders John and Jo Symons were lucky to escape with their lives when the fire hit destroying about 2500 of their livestock, a lifetime of genetic work and their home.

Their son-in-law Brian Robins was cleaning up the property on Thursday, January 16 with the help of Army reservists and BlazeAid.

He and his wife, Hannah were away in Adelaide when the fire hit but he tells the remarkable story of survival of his parent-in-laws, one of many during the Kangaroo Island bushfires.

He said John and Jo, both aged in their 70s, became separated at the height of the fire.

The remains of John Symons ute after he escaped to a burned-out paddock. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

The remains of John Symons ute after he escaped to a burned-out paddock. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

John was just down the road near the intersection of Turkey Lane and Johncock Road when he became disorientated in the thick smoke and fire.

His farm vehicle caught fire but he was able to escape by running into a burned out paddock until the fire passed over.

Obviously worried about his wife and fearing the worst with no phones or radios, he eventually was able to locate her unharmed at the nearby Turkey Lane airstrip.

While John and Jo lost their home, the home of Brian and Hannah survived. Mr Robins, who also operates a concrete and plastering business, however lost all his equipment.

They will rebuild but John and Jo will hand over the farm management to Brian and Hannah.

While they lost almost all of their stock, a few ram lambs survived from which they will start breeding again.

Mr Robbins said he was most grateful for all the support from the local community, including from fellow KI farm operation Bellevista, as well as the Army and BlazeAid.

The dead stock had been buried and now the attention was turned to removing and rebuilding more than 60kms of fencing.

Sadly they also lost their farm dogs and he had just found one dog's remains in some scrub on Thursday morning.

Amazingly, two weeks after the fire storm the paddocks were showing their first green shoots from Kikuyu grass.

John Symons said there was some work to do with DNA and semen that had survived.

He said he was remaining positive and while he had been ready to hand over management to the younger family even before the fire, he would never be really away from the farm as he loved what what he did.

Turkey Lane Merinos meanwhile has since put up its own social media post: After spending nearly two weeks fighting a fire on our western and northern boundary, on the 3rd of January, a day we usually celebrate with Jo and John's 51st wedding anniversary and Brian's 38th birthday, we were wiped out by fire (which started by lighting strikes in the Flinders Chase National Parks).

Sadly we have lost a considerable amount of infrastructure and just under 2500 sheep including our complete ram team. We have been fortunate enough to have saved our 2019 drop ram lambs which are getting fed up and genotyped ready for mating this year with our remaining ewes.

This fire has devastated our community but we have been very overwhelmed with the support and well wishes #kangarooislandfires#bushfire#farmlife#merinowool#community#kangarooisland

Tree loppers work on trees next to the Robin's surviving farm house on Thursday.

Tree loppers work on trees next to the Robin's surviving farm house on Thursday.

Burned out paddocks with the remains of hay bales.

Burned out paddocks with the remains of hay bales.

John Symons was able to run into a burned paddock after his ute caught on fire on Turkey Lane.

John Symons was able to run into a burned paddock after his ute caught on fire on Turkey Lane.

Cleaning up fences with the Army and BlazeAid.

Cleaning up fences with the Army and BlazeAid.

Surviving lambs. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

Surviving lambs. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

Shearing shed destroyed. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

Shearing shed destroyed. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

Homestead destroyed. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

Homestead destroyed. Photo Turkey Lane Merinos

This story Symons family to rebuild merino stud after miraculous escape from Kangaroo Island bushfire first appeared on The Islander.

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