NSW breathed a collective sigh of relief on Tuesday when only one home was destroyed statewide on a day of intense fire danger. But that doesn't make life easier for the McKenzies of Cooma, who went seeking a country change six months ago, but have now lost nearly everything.
Now Geoff and Nicole McKenzie face starting over again after losing almost everything in a bushfire.
The family of five have been left with just the clothes on their back and what items they could squeeze into the boot of their car after the bush fire at Mount Forest Road destroyed their home on Tuesday.
The family, including children Connor, 8, Tyler, 6, and Elizabeth, 2, had moved from Nowra to the 30-acre property about 20 minutes from Cooma six months ago.
"We were looking for a bit of space. A country change. Some peace and quiet," Mr McKenzie said.
The hardest part is telling everyone. As soon as you try to say anything the tears swell up
They had owned the property for just over a year. They had a shed, in which they were living, two caravans and a shipping container set up on the property and were planning to build a house there.
Now all that stands is an empty shell, ash and a generator that survived the blaze.
"We are gutted. It is not so much the shed. It's the possessions that we have lost, Like my great grandfather's war medals and Christmas presents the kids just got," Mr McKenzie said.
The family fled their home on Sunday afternoon when a bush fire started in the area.
Mr McKenzie said they could see the fire two properties away. When it was safe, at about 6pm, they packed the car with clothes and important documents, drove to town and stayed in a motel.
"We couldn't get out before that," Mr McKenzie said.
"When it cleared we got straight out. When they started the water bombing it became a bit more serious."
On Tuesday morning Mr and Mrs McKenzie drove to Pambula to drop the children at their grandmother's house, while they went out to watch the fire from a neighbour's property.
"The wind was just crazy out there," Mr McKenzie said. "It was swirling around."
With crews defending the property throughout the day, the couple decided to come into town about 5.30pm for dinner when it looked like their home would be safe. After dinner they received a call from a neighbour who told them the news.
"We went up there but couldn't see because of the smoke," Mr McKenzie said.
Mrs McKenzie said she was too upset to look.
"It was all gutted. All gone," Mr McKenzie said.
"We put all the more important stuff in the shipping container but it blew apart."
The couple went back to their property on Wednesday morning to have a closer look.
They described what was left as an "empty shell" and "ash".
"The odd thing is the generator out the back survived, out of everything," Mr McKenzie said.
"The hardest part is telling everyone. As soon as you try to say anything the tears swell up," Mrs McKenzie said.
Despite the loss, Mrs McKenzie said they still planned to build at the property.
"We will be back," she said.
From: The Cooma-Monara Express