Vineyard in close call by Toolleen fire

Norma and Peter Hamilton relive the Toolleen fire

UPDATES: Extreme fire danger poses further threat at Toolleen

NEWS: Hotspot fire warning in high risk conditions

NEWS: Neighbours help save home in Toolleen fire

GALLERY: Toolleen fire - the battle in pictures

NORMA and Peter Hamilton's Toolleen property was bordered by flames in each direction but their house remained untouched.

The fast-moving fire reached their back fence on Boxing Day and destroyed a small amount of grapes at their Chinaman's Bend vineyard. 

Norma said it was "absolute luck" the fire tore through empty paddocks but bypassed their house. Peter said credit was owed to the sheep that had helped reduce fuel loads. 

"The yard used to be heavily stocked with sheep," he said.

"So there wasn't very much grass there. Once the fire hit the actual the house yard it slowed right down because there was nothing to burn. That really saved us."

Peter said he was watering the vineyard when he noticed the ominous flames coming over the hill.

"They were high flames taking out trees," he said.

"I've never seen anything move like this. Usually fires move fast up hill and slow down hill. No-one told this fire. It just went like hell."

"From the time I saw the fire on the other side of the range and it hit the house there was only minutes before it had passed us.

"The smoke for some reason hung very low, which made it difficult to see where the firefront was. There was quite a breeze."

Norma said she was having a nap when Peter came in to wake her.

"He was panicked. I was trying to keep calm. I couldn't do anything... I was in the sitting room looking out at the flames and just thinking 'oh god'. Then it just stopped."

Peter said the vineyard only lost about one hectare of their 70 hectares of vines.

"We had a fair battle trying to keep it out of the vineyard. When we knew that we had saved the vineyard that was a huge sense of relief," he said.

Vineyard manager Bruce Farren was at home in Bendigo when he first heard of the fire on the news.

"I saw a picture of the vineyard on the TV and you could make out the office then everything was just black," he said.

"I think it looked worse than it actually was, which is fortunate."

He said their attention now turned to clearing up and making sure there were no embers left.

Find full reports, picture gallery and incredible footage here

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