For the first time, Jim Veale was happy to learn that north-south pipeline workers had entered his property without permission.
It was shortly after 3am on February 8, and a bushfire was raging towards his Glenburn farmhouse.
All hope seemed lost, until a group of saviours appeared through the smoke.
"A couple of Pipeline Alliance vehicles came into our place, through our front gate and straight in the side paddock.
"They cut the fence, went straight in and put the whole thing right out.
"It was so quick," Mr Veale said yesterday.
Living on the pipeline route has felt like a curse for the Veale family over the past 18 months.
But as nearby paddocks burst into flames, having the pipeline work base — with its water tankers and heavy machinery — located just up the road suddenly felt like a blessing.
"My God, if it wasn't for them, if that paddock next door to us had kept burning, it would have gone straight through our house. We would have had no way of controlling it," Mr Veale said.
Fourteen pipe workers worked through the night along with local fire crews, digging firebreaks to protect the pipeline command base as well as nearby properties.
With work on the pipe suspended indefinitely, pipeline workers have continued fire-fighting efforts, with about 15 still helping yesterday.
For a bloke who once threatened to "stick a shotgun up the arse" of an unwelcome pipeline worker — prompting a visit from the police and a period of stress leave for the worker — Mr Veale said the events of that night were a life-changing experience.
"I look at it in a different light now, I really do. I'm not as aggressive towards them any more.
"It has changed my mind a lot, about the people who are working on the pipeline," he said.
"I used to find any little thing they had done to ring up and complain about … After this fire, I won't be complaining about anything."
The goodwill didn't stop at saving the Veale family's house.
Several days later the pipeline workers gave Mr Veale 200 litres of diesel to make sure that his home generator and pumps could continue working.
"These guys have been incredible, they are just great guys, they've just been so helpful," he said.
Pipeline project director Rod Clifford said many organisations were helping fight the fires, and the pipe workers were happy to do their bit.
"Good people do the right thing in circumstances like this, and we're fortunate to have a lot of good people working for us," he said.
Unfortunately for the Brumby Government, the heroics of its pipeline workers may not be enough to salvage the reputation of the project.
"As far as my feelings about the actual pipeline, it hasn't changed a thing," Mr Veale said.
"I will still protest about the principle of the thing. I still don't believe it should go ahead … I will never forgive the Brumby Government for putting this stupid pipeline in."
Work on the pipe is likely to be weeks away from recommencing, but as the fires fade, so too, has some of the heat gone from the pipeline battle.
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