MARRABEL trainer Con Haagmans is one of many greyhound racing participants counting his blessings after coming face-to-face with the horrific bushfires which engulfed South Australia on Wednesday.
In less than an hour, Haagmans went from celebrating a winning double at Angle Park with Rebel Cain and Zipping Spice to fleeing the raging flames at his property with his greyhounds in order to ensure they were safe from the raging flames.
“Normally I go to Angle Park with my dogs and my wife Chris stays home, but this week she decided she wanted to get out of the house so I stayed home,” Haagmans explained.
“I was sitting here at home having a Johnnie Walker to celebrate after one of the dogs won and the next thing I knew I was evacuating the dogs to get them to a safe place.
“It all happened within about half an hour when one of my neighbours came over and told me the fire was on top of the hills and suggested that I move – so I piled the dogs in the trailer and left.
“You have just got to be ready to move straight away. I grabbed the dogs and a couple of small things and that was it – you just don’t worry about any of the other stuff because you are a long time dead.”
Having experienced a scare with fires a few years ago, Haagmans wasn’t going to take any chances and was quick to ensure the safety of his wife and other greyhounds.
“My wife Chris was trying to get back here from Angle Park with the two dogs and she had to go via Port Wakefied and we ended up meeting at Auburn and we stayed there last night
“We had a scare a few years ago on the road where we had to drive through bush fires with our car and caravan which was a scary experience so we try not to take any chances any more. We were phoning each other, checking up on where the other person was and trying to liaise to meet up.
“After that it was just a matter of waiting it out and that was the worst part – not knowing whether your house was going to still be there when you were able to return.”
Fortunately, the Haagmans were some of the lucky ones – their home was undamaged by the fires. Despite that, the experience was still enough to reiterate just how quickly things can change.
“It started at Pinery and we had winds of up to 80-90 kilometres from the North and once it started it just absolutely took off through the crops.
“It probably travelled about 40 kilometres within about two or three hours and it ended up taking about 85,000 hectares.
“Luckily it never got within about 20 kilometres of us, but it was heading towards us and with the right wind conditions fires can travel about 15 kilometres an hour – so it was only about an hour away and things could have changed very quickly.”