FIGHTING a losing battle to save his house from the fires that ravaged the Clarence Valley at the weekend has forced Paul Cameron to take stock of his life.
The Clarence Valley Anglican School groundskeeper started building his house on Stoney Ridge Rd, Kremnos late in 1985 and it was a work in progress until disaster struck on Saturday.
Mr Cameron returned to his home to find fire just beginning to take hold.
"I went to get the two hoses to put out the fires, but they had melted," he said. "Then I began filling up a couple of buckets at a time and tried to get on top of it that way.
"But the fire was in two different points of the house and I couldn't keep up with it.
"I realised I couldn't do it myself and called the emergency services around 4.30pm."
His mind switched to saving what he could save from inside the house.
"It was starting to fill up with smoke, but the flames were still small," he said.
"I was able to get inside and get my photo albums, my iPod and camera.
"I had to crawl through the house to keep my head under the smoke. I wanted to get some more stuff out, but the smoke was right down to the floor, so I thought it was too dangerous."
A little more than an hour after he began battling the flames, Mr Cameron had to withdraw.
"I went back up on to the road and then I saw some trees on fire near the way out, so I decided to scram," he said. "I didn't want to be cut off by trees falling across the road."
He came back to the property on Sunday to find it reduced to ashes and twisted roofing iron.
"I could see the tyre tracks of the fire brigade trucks, but they must have arrived too late," he said.
He said his tool shed, with his motorbike and collection of tools, was safe, as was his home brewing shed.
Mr Cameron will not be rebuilding his dream house on his rural block.
"I'm off the idea of living out there while I work in town," he said.
"If I'd been there from the start I would have been right. If you can't live out there, there's no point.
"I don't want to go through that again."
Mr Cameron said the staff at CVAS had supported him during a difficult time.
"The school has been fantastic. I've received so many messages of support and help," he said.
"But I've got insurance and savings and got a place to stay. I've bought some new clothes."
In an email to school staff he summed his reaction to the personal disaster.
"We all have dark days, no exceptions. The measure of us is how well we bounce back from the knocks and setbacks, so I am not going to moan about bad luck and what I have lost," he wrote.
"Instead I feel lucky to work with such a kind, generous and thoughtful group of people. Thanks so much, you are awesome. Paul."
In January 2011 Paul Cameron had his first brush with a natural disaster when he left his car in Brisbane while he holidayed in Thailand.
While he was away the backyard where he left his recently bought car was flooded for days.
When he returned the car was covered in mud and an electrician convinced him the car was a write-off.
He was able to get $150 from a scrap metal dealer for the car.