An East Gippsland landowner has praised the heroic actions of three men, as a mother and her three children aged under 10 sought refuge under an irrigator during a raging bushfire.
Buchan Station owner Bryan Hayden said the quick-thinking actions by his farm manager Richard McAuliffe and friends Ian Free and Connor Hume saved the farm's homestead, sheds and livestock.
The December 30 fire burnt 90 per cent of pasture and fencing and a substantial amount of silage on the 800-hectare farm east of Buchan.
That morning, the three men prepared fire units in preparation for a bushfire but it wasn't until 5pm the station came under ember attack, causing multiple spot fires on the property.
"We had just ploughed a mineral earth fire break with discs about 300 metres long when the fire was coming steadily down the hill," Mr McAuliffe said.
"We made the decision to use matches and burn the fire back from the fire break and it made the containment line from three metres wide, which may not have stopped the fire, to 50 metres wide."
The men referred to it as "survivor burning" which ultimately stopped the fire from reaching about 400 round bales of hay which were bordering the station's cottage and nearby homestead.
At the same time, Mr McAuliffe's wife, Elly, and their three children, sat in the family car under a pivot irrigator in a field of sorghum, protecting them from fierce ember attack.
"Without them doing the backburning, it would have been too late and not only would we have lost the house and the sheds, other neighbouring farms could have gone too," Mr Hayden said.
"Thankfully our stock damage is minimal.
"We've only lost a few sheep and cattle, but nothing serious compared to our neighbours."