AN ILLEGAL fire track built by Wal Bounader on his Wodonga grazing property enabled firefighters to stop a fast-moving fire-front threatening his house and the adjoining army base and a housing estate.
Mr Bounader, who turns 80 this year, knew his day of vindication would come after being forced to pay a fine 20 years ago for pushing an illegal track across his 100-acre property.
Mr Bounader admits he didn't bother to apply for a permit but he's glad today that his house is intact.
"I'm on a hill. Fire comes uphill in seconds. I needed access to the top of the hill," he said.
A grass fire sparked and ran, fanned by 90km/hr winds, roaring towards Mr Bounader's grazing property.
"A friend phoned me and when I looked, I saw the whole of my hill was alight. I said to the wife, 'Go! Go! Go!' She went," while Wal went out to fight the fire.
Thankfully, 20 vehicles including fire trucks and excavators suddenly appeared and managed to stop the fire front on his property, saving the adjoining Bandiana Army Base and an urban estate near Wodonga.
Wodonga CFA acting operations manager Ashley Mills says the fire track contributed to firefighters being able to get to the fire front quickly and easily, saving Mr Bounader's house and sheds but losing a motorhome, a tractor and some fencing.
"The fire burnt nearly 300ha in an hour. It raced up the side of Bears Hill. It travelled almost four kilometres in less than an hour. It was very quick," Mr Mills said.
Mr Bounader now has council policy in his sights.
"They are going to kill people by not putting fire tracks in. By not letting people cut trees down. By not letting them clear. Canopies over roads are just a death trap," he says.
Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie said the Bears HIll blaze had been frightening. However the Mayor said it would be inappropriate to allow landholders to make fire tracks without permission.
"You wouldn't want to encourage people to put them in willy nilly," she said.
But she said if planning processes needed to be reviewed, they would be.