On Victoria's bushfire front
Bushfires in Victoria's east blaze out of control as one man dies, homes are lost and thousands of hectares are burnt through.PT2M39S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2czl7 620 349 January 19, 2013
EVEN winners look like they've been to hell and back. This is the Cumming family, still standing after a 10-hour fight to save the farm that has carried their name for generations.
It began on Friday night when Glenn Cumming looked out the back window and saw the back of his Glenmaggie farm glowing red, and then flames trickling over the hill.
Three years of good rain had left the grass waist-high, and the hot weather of late had turned it into an explosive form of kindling. And then a sizzling wash of flame.
Relief: Glenn and Sharon Cumming and children (from left) Nathan, Bec and Steve in front of their home, which they saved after a 12-hour battle with the fire. Photo: Ken Irwin
Sharon and daughter Bec, 17, took on the grass fires with damp towels - while Glenn cut firebreaks with his baby bulldozer, and kept the generator and pump running.
Twin sons Nathan and Steve, 15, operated the weed-spray cart with a high-pressure water hose, at one point almost collapsing from muscle cramp.
The night passed on adrenalin, the Cumming clan fighting like madmen even though the family home was surrounded. ''At one point we got attacked from four different sides, four different directions,'' said Mr Cumming. Of his family he said: ''They are champions.''
Victorian Bushfires in January
Fires from Justin Crawley's property. Justin (Left) watches the fire with mate Andy Forbes after finishing dinner at Justin's Property near Hariettville Photo: Justin McManus
The 500-hectare property has been in the Cumming family ''since day dot'' and they were determined to save it. ''I've been fighting bushfires all my life. We were pretty prepared.''
By Saturday morning, the paddocks in every direction were charred black. Much of the fencing was gone, but the house and the sheds were untouched. There were plenty of flies hanging about, and the Hereford cattle too had returned.
The cows had apparently stepped over the fires and found refuge in burnt-over country. Even the chickens were in good shape, the rooster having herded his hens under the roost - and two eggs were later found intact in the hen house.
The fire coming towards the Cumming family's Glenmaggie house at 2pm on Friday.
Down the road, Mr Cumming's elderly parents had also managed to save their house. The Cumming family have no electricity. But they have their home. On Saturday, Sharon was cooking corned beef.
Glenn's main concern was to find feed for his 300 head of Hereford cattle. The fate of livestrock was heavy on the minds of other locals. Some farmers who had attended a town meeting in Heyfield, were angry they had not been allowed back into the fire zone to feed their animals, or shoot them if necessary.
As of 5pm last night, they were allowed back to their properties to see what was still standing, and still walking about.
For some locals, there was the whimsical cruelty of good news turned bad - and for others small miracles by way of consolation.
Helen and Andrew O'Neill had been ''laughing and joking'' after they heard firefighters had saved their Seaton home. But two hours later, the same young firefighter who had brought the good news returned - and burst into tears.
A burning tree had fallen on the O'Neill home. It was gone.
And so life goes on. The O'Neills opened their fish 'n' chip shop on Saturday despite their loss.
''People are still hungry,'' Helen said. ''And anyway, I haven't got a home to go to.''
Alfred Stinten was working Friday's night shift when he learned the fires had reached Seaton. Mr Stinten drove out to save his dog, but was turned back at a roadblock. Everything was gone.
''We were just lucky we weren't there,'' said Mr Stinten. ''Everyone's helping. It's too early to know what to do yet.''
Somehow the dog, a white labrador, turned up on Saturday. ''She was a little black, but she came back,'' he said.