IT had crept well past 40 degrees in the sun at Mount Pilot when Gordon Habeck saw the first wisps of smoke billow into the air.
The professional fire spotter was the first to raise the alarm about the Chiltern fire that burnt about 30 hectares of private property on Saturday, coming precariously close to the flammable forest.
About 10 minutes before, dry lightning had struck bush about 500 metres away from his lookout point.
Mr Habeck said it was fortunate firefighters pounced on the blaze before it took off through the paddocks and into the nearby Mount Pilot National Park.
“It was 42 to 43 degrees and then some extra wind came in the north and sort of pushed it a little bit, so they did a great job to keep it into the paddocks,” he said.
“If it got into the forest that would have been a long job.”
Saturday afternoon’s fire was the worst he’s seen so far this season from his sweeping vantage point at the Mount Pilot fire spotting tower.
The conditions in the tower could only be described as horrendous.
The sun bounced off the rocky ground below and radiated up into the tower.
With no airconditioning or a generator, the lone sentry was regularly cooked in the heat.
“It was 44 in the tower. The only relief you have is putting your cold drinking water on a towel and putting it around your neck,” Mr Habeck said.
“You can’t get away from it, you can’t go outside because it’s hot.
“It’s really just sit here and bake.”
The part-time rural fencer has been the Mount Pilot fire spotter for the past 20 fire seasons, though in the past couple of wets ones he’s only been stationed there for a few weeks during summer.
In the drought years the fire season stretched out for three of four months, and with it, his tenure at the tower.
This year is likely to see a return to long hot days on his 550-metre perch.
And for the next week at least, he’s unlikely to get much time to put his feet up.