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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Cane farmer burnt

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Chris Dobney

The practice of burning sugar cane is again under the spotlight following an accident at a Harwood farm yesterday.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was called to the farm in Nicholsons Lane, Harwood at around 10.45am and airlifted a 66-year-old cane farmer to Lismore.

The man was burnt while trying to put out a secondary fire after embers from a cane burn ignited a patch of one-year-old cane.

After examination at Lismore Base Hospital, where he was intubated and treated for partial-thickness burns to his hand, leg and face, the man was transferred to Concord Hospital.

A neighbour told ABC radio that the burn was a result of a freak accident when the man accidentally drove his tractor into the path of the fire instead of reversing.

But it has once again raised the issue of why cane burning continues at all on the north coast. The century-old practice was necessary when cane was hand-harvested to chase rats and snakes out of the path of the harvesters.

But the introduction of co-generation electricity plants at local sugar mills was supposed to herald an era of ‘green harvesting’, meaning the cane could be cut and delivered green to the mills.

But the fires and ‘black snow’ associated with the cane-harvesting season continues unabated.

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