Spear brothers' banana plantation ravaged by Kian Rd fire at Taylors Arm

It's been a tough few months for the Spear brothers.

They've just gone through the heart-rending bcu merger, reconciling themselves with relinquishing control of the future of the business their father helped found.

And now, not even a month later, they've had to watch the family's farming legacy go up in smoke.

The firestorm on Friday, November 8, which blazed a path of destruction through our Valley also claimed the 20-or-so acres of plantation on North Bank Rd where Michael and Stephen Spear grow their Cavendish bananas.

In fact, most of the area's banana growers took a devastating hit that day.

Every single one of the Spears' 14,000-odd beloved plants were affected by the inferno which bore down on the farm.

The plastic bunch covers have all melted away, the bananas underneath destroyed

The plastic bunch covers have all melted away, the bananas underneath destroyed

Stephen said he was lucky not to have been there when the fire front came - he was in a meeting in Brisbane.

But Michael was there, frantically trying to save what he could from the packing sheds.

"Michael would work on his bananas on Christmas day - that's the sort of person he is," Stephen said.

"I was told my brother Philip had to drag him away when the fire hit.

"Mick rang me after and said 'they're all gone' and that was it."

Stephen said the loss has affected his brother so much he hasn't been back to see the bananas since.

On top of the thousands of bunches that were blackened and a year's worth of lost income, the brothers each lost their packing sheds, and all of their processing equipment: packing wheels, rollers, tubs, cartons, you name it.

More than 5000 plastic bunch covers were destroyed, and around 15,000 wooden props used to stabilise the plants were incinerated. Stephen said they'll now regrettably need to use more chemicals to keep the banana weevil borers at bay without the extra stability from the props.

Stephen also lost 120 avocado trees, with only one tree left unaffected by the fire.

"If I have 20 out of them survive, I'll be lucky," he said.

But he's not one to dwell on what's been lost.

"For breakfast this morning I had roast avocados," he said when he spoke to Guardian News on Friday.

"And do you know what, it wasn't bad. I kept thinking here's an opportunity - this could be the next smashed avo!"

In fact, he's noticed the funnel leaves of many of the banana plants starting to come through already, less than a week after the flames licked them.

"Bananas are incredibly hardy plants, they're just amazing. I'm not too worried about the bananas - in 18 months you won't know there's been a fire through them," he said.

"But I reckon it'll take about 80 years until the bush regenerates, that's how bad it is. There's a couple of places up there that just look like a bomb hit. It's just something you've never seen before and certainly never want to see again.

The trees have become so destabilised by the fire that Stephen said he wouldn't dare drive up the road to their fire if the wind picked up

The trees have become so destabilised by the fire that Stephen said he wouldn't dare drive up the road to their fire if the wind picked up

"We can't have another disastrous fire like that again up there - it's destroyed the ecology. And as a community we can't have this again or we won't survive."

He, like so many others we've spoken to in the Valley, is angry at the inaction which led to this being a "1 in 100 years" fire.

"Things aren't right at the moment in the bush," he said.

He said there's been virtually no hazard reduction burning in the mountains above their plantation for the past 40 years. And no amount of funding for new firefighting equipment would have made a lick of difference.

1000 firefighters and 100 helicopters couldn't have stopped that fire as far as my brother is concerned. And the problem is that people in ivory towers in Sydney and Canberra have made the decisions."

The worry for locals now is for when the rains do eventually arrive.

"Of course we all want it to rain, but we want it to be a gentle rain. The next disaster waiting to happen is if it floods, and silt and everything else gets washed down," he said.

He believes we need to get "back to basics" and start to look at how the land was managed for fire in the past, including looking at the slow burning techniques of the First Australians.

He also thinks governments should consider investing money in educating people how to prepare their properties for bushfire season.

He's the first to admit that he was "part of the problem", saying he was probably a little lax on preparing his own property for the threat of fire.

"I think a lot of things are going to change after this," he said.

But one thing that won't change is the Spears' passion for growing bananas; both brothers have made the decision to rebuild with the goal of getting a new packing shed up within the next nine months.

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