Pager alerts couple to fire on doorstep

Pager alerts couple to fire on doorstep

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JOB TO DO: Robin and Mack Stagg, Tambo Crossing, stand in one of their paddocks in East Gippsland destroyed by fire but are already planning their recovery.

JOB TO DO: Robin and Mack Stagg, Tambo Crossing, stand in one of their paddocks in East Gippsland destroyed by fire but are already planning their recovery.

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Eighty-five per cent of Mack and Robin Stagg's property at Tambo Crossing was burnt by fire.

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An inadvertent CFA pager request which alerted Tambo Crossing couple Robin and Mack Stagg to a fire on their doorstep may have saved their lives.

It was 1.30am on December 21, exactly a month after a fire at the Barmouth Spur had ignited, when Mrs Stagg was woken by the pager calling for a strike team to be sent to Tambo Crossing.

"I heard the pager going off in the lounge room ... I don't think Mack would have ever heard it if I wasn't there but we both got up and got going very quickly," Mrs Stagg said.

Local farmers believe the fire travelled up to 27 kilometres in three hours, quickly threatening properties along the Great Alpine Road in East Gippsland.

"I nearly had a heart attack when I got out and had a look at it because it was so unexpected, we thought it was miles away, and we hadn't received any official warning," Mr Stagg said.

"Before we went to bed we had been under a burnt leaf and ember attack with peculiar cloud formations but we'd been monitoring the fire and were aware of it."

He said official emergency information indicated the fire was travelling towards Brookville, near Doctors Flat.

"We went to bed that night knowing the fire was still 20 miles away," Mr Stagg said.

A strike team along with a few friends and landholders fought the blaze well into the morning of December 21, minimising the damage to about 40 hectares on the property.

"Our first thought when we saw the fire was to ring our son [Stuart Stagg] who lives behind us as he had only come out of hospital the day before with a collapsed lung," Mrs Stagg said.

DESTROYED: More than 400 hecatres of farmland was burnt on the Robin and Mack Stagg's farm.

DESTROYED: More than 400 hecatres of farmland was burnt on the Robin and Mack Stagg's farm.

Nine days later fire returned to Tambo Crossing only this time it was more "ferocious" and relentless.

"It was like an inferno was in our backyard the second time," Mr Stagg said.

"The second fire spotted right across bits of Tambo Crossing and basically burnt us out.

"The first fire might have burnt 100 acres and we managed to contain it but the second burnt virtually all of our land."

The Staggs, who breed Angus cattle, believe the pager alert was sent to them by accident but said it "helped save our lives".

But unfortunately it was not the fire time the couple - who will celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary this year - have experienced fire at their Tambo Crossing property.

In 2007 their property was burnt to a similar degree after fire at the Barmouth Spur ignited and threatened their house and livestock.

"We estimate about 85 per cent of the farm has been destroyed, maybe 90pc but it's over 400 hectares," Mr Stagg said.

"Fences have been lost and we're not sure how much, including our boundary fences, and pasture has been completely lost but our cattle are okay."

The Staggs have since received hay organised by Landmark East Gippsland, including from Warragul and Skipton, and a drop organised by the Lions Club of Bairnsdale from Yarram.

"We're into recovery stage now and we need to start picking up the pieces, work out what we're going to do with the cattle, work out where we'll put them and how to feed them," Mr Stagg said.

Power to the area has also been restored after the area was without power and phone access for 15 days.

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