Australia — As investigations get underway into what sparked the , residents of the affected areas are returning home to survey the damage.
At Winmalee, in the lower Blue Mountains, an intense bushfire has ripped through more than 500 hectares and is still not fully contained.
Two hundred homes in the area remain without power and it is unlikely to be restored until midday tomorrow.
Still in shock
Winmalee resident Janine Prendergast stands among the charred trees around her house, still in shock at the ferocity of the fire.
Amid the haze of smoke, she counts herself lucky that her home was saved.
“Absolutely I can’t believe it,” she said.
“Last night we’re watching the news and we knew we were in trouble when they panned across the front lawn of the house next door and then we saw all the flames across the front and we knew our house was in trouble too.”
Ms Prendergast was not at home when her family was evacuated.
“I was having my nails done and then tried to get home,” she said.
“I turned to come up here and the blockade was happening and then of course I had a little bit of a panic because I knew the kids were here, but I knew my ex husband was here as well.”
Looking at her scorched front lawn Ms Prendergast says she knows exactly why her house survived the flames.
“It was the Rural Fire Service, that’s how our house survived, you look around at how close the flames came and you know it was those men and women who worked furiously last night. They saved our house, it’s just amazing,” she said.
‘Lucky to have a house’
Another Winmalee resident Paddy Craddock has a tree through the middle of his home.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said.
“I’m lucky to still have a house. I didn’t knew whether I’d have a house or not.”
He was evacuated late yesterday and went to his father’s home, he had just the clothes he was standing in.
Like many residents here, Paddy Craddock is concerned about such an early start to the fire season.
Paddy Craddock grew up in the Blue Mountains and is no stranger to bushfires. Homes were lost in fires in 1993 at the end if his street.
“The 1977 bushfire was really bad too , but this was up there, the fire came the closest it ever has,” he said.
“Yesterday’s winds were phenomenal, they were coming from all directions.”
Race to save property
Tara and Simon Albury live in Winmalee with their two small children.
Their property was damaged but is still standing.
“It was extremely terrifying, I’ve not experienced this sort of thing before and to have them here in the house was frightening,” Tara said.
Simon rushed home to try to save the family home and the livestock but was forced inside when the fire came up.
“When I got here and the fire brigade came, they said concentrate, get your animals inside so I got the dogs inside, the goats and things like that,” he said.
“The horses we couldn’t get.
“It was incredible, it was really hot, it was really hard to breathe with the smoke.
“I haven’t experienced anything like that before.”
Tara described the moment a fire truck was engulfed by flames.
“I just saw the fire roll up through the bush into the backyard and straight over the top of the truck and got the firefighter who was standing this side of the truck,” she said.
The firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation along with six others who had to be treated.