Richard says the New Year’s Eve blaze swept onto his own property near the New South Wales South Coast tourist town “like a hurricane of fire. I could see it coming down from the hill and within five minutes virtually everything was catching fire. It was that hot. Anything that would burn did burn.”
He tried to save as much as he could but the fire damaged his house and destroyed his shed, machinery and work tools. “I lost a roof, a good part of the structural beams within one side of the house. And windows, water tanks, water pumps, half a laundry, electrical, septic tank was gone.”
Richard shows Red Cross’ Monica Kincade the fire’s path across his property. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Dilini Perera
His home is surrounded by forest and it wasn’t until the next morning he could clear the trees that had fallen across the road and drive into town.
When he got there he saw “masses of people wandering around the evacuation centres and everywhere was full. There was that much smoke. No communication, the telephones weren’t working, no power, no shopping centres. A lot of people were unsure what to do.”
Richard says that day it felt like a war zone. “You'd be driving along and power poles were falling over – a week later they were still burning, no one put them out so they were just falling across the road.”
For months afterwards trees continued to burn underground, he says. “I've seen some television footage after a nuclear bomb and you see the remnants of trees – that’s what it reminded me of.”