RELIEF: Helen Tyas Tunggal mops up her deck after the fires swept through the Angourie village on Monday night.
RELIEF: Helen Tyas Tunggal mops up her deck after the fires swept through the Angourie village on Monday night. Adam Hourigan

'THE SCARIEST': Facing a fire unlike any other

HELEN Tyas Tunggal has mopped her Angourie home's wooden deck twice, and still the residue of Monday's fire remains.

And two days after the fires sent a shockwave through the town, it's only the gentle drops of rain that tease the village that convinces her to unpack valuables from the back of her car.

"I'd say it was the scariest, definitely the worst I've seen," she said.

"We dodged a bullet this time, without the fireys here, holy dooley."

It's not the first time that fires have threatened the village, and Ms Tyas Tunggal is well versed in preparing for fires, even making a trip to Yamba to collect more tennis balls to help block and fill the gutters.

With all of the loose furniture and items stacked away and bathtubs full of water - "we lost water pressure last time so we all filled up," she was as well prepared as you could be for the approaching blaze.

But this one was different. After being told to enact their fire plans on Monday morning, and then quickly told they had two hours to get out, a breakout blaze that closed Angourie Rd left many residents trapped in the village, left to protect the many homes that faced the front.

"I wasn't scared to stay, because I've been in a lot of fires before, but it came so quickly," she said.

"We're used to watching the fires come slowly over the ridges over several days, you can sit at night and see it come up slowly through the national park, and it's never got beyond Mara Creek.

"The other evening we were watching it come up the coast, which we're not used to, and there was this boom which we thought was the toilets, but it turned out to be the bridge at Mara Creek.

"The speed it came, it was really different, and how seriously everyone was taking it, you just knew."

After clocking 17km of walking making ready theirs and five other houses in the neighbourhood, night fell, and they waited.

And while a line of fire trucks faced the front, the embers started flying across the sky, killing any hope they had of sleep for the night.

"They'd come from the west, and then from the north, some from hundreds of metres away, and you'd be in all directions just putting them out.

"There were some landing on roofs down the road the size of tennis balls."

Getting respite at certain times, they made their way around the village to check on neighbours, and the surrounding areas, watching as the beach that many had thought would be a good escape route was also engulfed in flames.

With embers still flying past at 3.30am the vigil continued, hosing down each threat until the fire front moved past, and the danger passed them, allowing a few precious moments of sleep.

"You're really running on adrenaline. You do what you need to do, you stay safe and you make sure your neighbours are okay and you do it. You've got a job to do," Ms Tyas Tunggal said.

"It's really only hit me today (Wednesday), because now I don't know where to start with clean up, and also I've been able to have a big breath and be emotional about it."

Ms Tyas Tunggal said she had a lot of emotions running through her head about the event, and believed that while money seemed to flow quickly from government into disaster recovery, plans could be better made in preparing the environment to prevent such things occurring.

"It's just a band-aid solution, they need to do proper management."

In the end though, she said she was thankful for the firefighters who had stayed with them and performed beyond the call of duty, alongside her community.

"It shows that we're a community that can pull together in adversity, and just the willingness to share information and look out for each other makes you strong," she said.

"The fact we had confidence in the fire service and the number of crews that were here was just incredible.

"It's not like we hadn't been through this before, but I must say it was lot scarier than the previous ones."



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