'All gone within half an hour': Family home obliterated in Tathra fire

John Blankenstein visits what's left of his parents-in-law's house near Francis Hollis Drive in Tathra. Photo: Karleen Minney
John Blankenstein visits what's left of his parents-in-law's house near Francis Hollis Drive in Tathra. Photo: Karleen Minney

John Blankenstein was in shock looking at the remnants of his wife's parents' home, where a small ceramic pot was the only thing that was salvageable.

His wife's family had lived there for 37 years, since she was a small child, Mr Blankenstein said, but at 3.30pm on Sunday that history was obliterated.

"It came over the hill and then all eight houses in a row exploded and in a second they were all gone. It was all gone within half an hour," he said, standing in the rubble in the area of Francis Hollis Drive.

Homes lost to bushfire in the NSW town of Tathra. Photo: Karleen Minney.

Homes lost to bushfire in the NSW town of Tathra. Photo: Karleen Minney.

Mr Blankenstein, whose own house across the river was untouched, said his wife's family had been evacuated to Bermagui and were now at a son's house in Merimbula.

Ocean View Terrace and Wildlife Drive back on to bush behind the Tathra township, and on Monday morning the streets were dead quiet apart from the sounds of birds and fire alarms going off in empty houses.

Gerry Collins was sweeping his front yard on Monday morning, the house where he has lived for 18 years still standing on Ocean View Terrace where so many others were destroyed.

The utter devastation of homes loss. Photo: Karleen Minney.

The utter devastation of homes loss. Photo: Karleen Minney.

"I've seen anything like this," he said. "It all happened extremely fast. The street exploded. There was no time to do anything, no time to even get out so we just stayed here to fight it."

Mr Collins was left, "buggered, stuffed, I can't comprehend".

Mr Collins's house was saved by firefighters.

"They stood there for two hours and saved it," he said. "I was out here trying to save it with them."

"I still can't believe that our house is still here and everyone else's is gone."

Another young man returned while we visit Ocean View Terrace, to see his house and car gone, his boat the only thing left. He fell to his knees, in tears, comforted by a friend.

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Ed Locs, also on Ocean View Terrace, stayed back to save his house, with fire running down the side of it and bushes igniting explosively with the heat, flames fanned by the windy day.

"Fires were starting all over the place. It all happened really fast, but you could see by the smoke from early on yesterday that it wasn't going to be good," he said.

One neighbour lost the house. The home on the other side still stands.