IT has been less than a month since the township of Lexton was placed on red alert after a fire tore through more than 2700 hectares of nearby farmland and bush.
But seemingly, since the tragic scenes witnessed in East Gippsland and New South Wales - and the air quality across the eastern half of the country in major cities - the fire has already been confined to a blip on the history books of this summer.
While the focus of the recovery efforts has justifiably switched to the other side of the state, for residents who lived the horror of December 20, the scars remain.
One look out his bedroom window and farmer Rod McErvale knows what has been lost. His property had 1000 hectares scorched and he had to destroy almost 300 sheep, yet he considers himself one of the lucky ones.
"It was a bad day and it was one of those days you just hope nothing happened," Mr McErvale said. "Luckily we got through until 4pm before anything did happen and we were lucky there was only one other major fire in this area.
"We lost just under 1000 acres, but there's about 80 acres not burned, we were fortunate there in that the bit that was not burned was the part that came into our wool shed.
"In the end, we had to destroy 280 head, there were four other groups we were lucky enough to save or fire trucks were able to put water around them which protected them."
Mr McErvale and his wife Rebecca run a business Leroy Mac Designs, which specialises in baby clothes made purely from wool from their property.
"We use the wool off our very own sheep to make machine knitted and machine washable garments and we believe we're the only company in Australia that is doing that," Mrs McErvale said.
"We send the wool across to Italy where it is processed into yarn and then it gets sent back and everything is knitted in Ballarat.
"The reason we go to Italy is they are the only company we could find that would guarantee us a DNA test of the wool we send to them is genuine."
But when the next batch is ready to be sent, the business is set to suffer.
"The fire will affect the strength of the wool, the amount we can produce," Mrs McErvale said.
"We've just had a new batch of wool sent back now, so that's OK, but it'll be the next batch that will be affected. What can you do?"
The fire began around 4pm, five days before Christmas, in the Ben Major State Forest. That day would be the region's hottest ever day recorded in December.
It headed south, accelerated by the undulating hills in the region, before a wind change pushed it back to the north-east which saw it head straight for the town.
Despite late night emergency warnings to evacuate the town, by some miracle, the wind lulled just before the fire reached Lexton, allowing firefighters to get on top of the blaze and save the township.
The fire will affect the strength of the wool, the amount we can produce.Rebecca McErvale
Ballarat Federal MP Catherine King visited the McErdale property on Thursday to inspect the recovery effort. She said it was critical that the fire was not forgotten.
"I wanted to hear first hand from Rod and Bec's whose farm was deeply affected by the fires about the long term impact on their farm, their business and themselves," Ms King said.
"While the focus has been quite rightly on fires in Gippsland, there are fires that have happened right across the country.
"While the immediate support is the likes of BlazeAid who are assisting, insurers and the like have come out and will allow them to slowly get back on their feet, what is often not seen is the nearly 300 merino which have taken over 100 years of farming to build up the quality, that can never be replaced."
"Come August, those financial impacts will begin to be felt and next year when that wool is not available, they won't be able to sell.
"With fires, the attention is often on the immediate and to fix what's been loss, but the losses are long term, deep and impact farming communities greatly."
Ms King said she was keen to assist with local support efforts.
"When fires are no longer on the front pages of newspapers, or the fire is no longer on the emergency management website, they are not front of mind, but they should be because of the way a local economy works and the deep impact it has on families," she said.
Ms King said she would continue to raise the issue of a lack of mobile phone coverage in the region, something which plagued fire fighters in December.
"I've written to the (communications) minister twice and I'll be writing again," she said.
"The council has written back to me in the last day or so saying plans were well underway, but I haven't been given any final assurances or dates and I will continue to seek those."
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