Stationary ute ignited Chepstowe fire: neighbour

GEOFF Bruty was the first person to spot the smoke that started the Chepstowe fire.

Looking out the back window of his house, he saw smoke a few hundred metres away on a neighbouring property.

He had just been helping strip wheat on the paddock before returning home for a drink.

The veteran farmer said it was sheer luck that he happened to look out his back window when he did.

"I was probably the first person to ring triple-0, but I think the header driver on the paddock probably saw it at the same time," he said.

Initial CFA crews fought valiantly to control the fire but strong winds proved too powerful an enemy.

Contrary to rumours that have circulated, the fire did not start from a ute that was driving around the paddock.

Mr Bruty said although it was a ute that started the fire, it had in fact been stationary for at least half an hour while its owner filled a truck with grain and drove it into Ballarat.

The diesel ute was turned off, yet somehow managed to ignite a fire more than half an hour after it had stopped running.

The fire eventually burnt 1,100 hectares and destroyed at least 6 homes.

"I've never really heard of it happening before," said Mr Bruty.

"It's even more remarkable that it's a diesel ute and it went up.

"Petrol exhausts can get hot pretty easily but not normally diesel."

Initially Mr Bruty saw the fire heading straight for Snake Valley, before a change in wind saw it take a northerly turn away from the town.

"It was probably pretty lucky because there is a lot more bush out Snake Valley way and it might have been even harder to control," he said.

Mr Bruty's property lies on the other side of Chepstowe-Pittong Road and he said if the wind had been blowing the other direction, he would have stood little chance.