At its peak the fire was so intense it formed a 150-metre-high tornado of whirling heat, flame and smoke. It was January and the owners of Laharum Olive Grove – Deirdre Baum, her husband Richard and their two boys – were on holiday at the beach. Bound on one side by the imposing Mount Difficult Range in Grampians National Park, their 120-hectare property forms part of one of the largest and oldest olive tree estates in Australia, planted by Jacob Friedman in 1943.
The Baums exchanged city life for their relatively small olive tree plot nine years ago and had already endured flood. But this was their first fire. Neighbours updated them as the flames rolled over the hills and swept through their property. There was nothing they could do.
They arrived home to a scene of charred devastation. Fire fighters had saved the house and the newly built restaurant, and the family’s two miniature goats and two alpacas were still alive too (although one had its ears badly singed). But the flames spared only 300 of their 11,000 olive trees.The good oil on the war against junk food,