Fire strikes Tathra family twice

Deborah Naeve and Ingrid Mitchell think they should just get married now.

The 45-year-old couple don’t have any more stuff, the fire burnt it all - the things that they were preparing to move into their new home, which on Tuesday - one suburb over - was also being defended by firefighters.

Their house has no front door, no photos, just a few garden statues, “the only things that survived had already been in a fire" they said of the remaining pottery.

Deborah Naeve and partner Ingrid Mitchell return to their home in Tathra Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Deborah Naeve and partner Ingrid Mitchell return to their home in Tathra Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

When embers rained down on Tathra the pile of rubble they were standing on top of had only just sold – but not settled - and the one they just bought, the Rural Fire Service was still battling to protect.

They couldn't blame the new owners for not buying the shell of a home that once existed, paying for their new home was another matter entirely.

A wedding would help, they said, the gifts for their new home, too.

Like dozens of others they received no warning, no messages, before the fire tore through the community.

They snatched their children and ran.

Deborah Naeve and Ingrid Mitchell had sold their home - but not settled - and bought another which was also affected by the fire. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Deborah Naeve and Ingrid Mitchell had sold their home - but not settled - and bought another which was also affected by the fire. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“The kids were in the swimming pool next door when we saw the flames coming over the top of the houses,” Ms Mitchell said.

Three days later they returned through the road blocks, just in time to see school bus number 25 roll around the corner filled with residents as tourists of what their lives once were.

Rolling down Ocean View Terrace, the sea gave way to a slope of destruction, eight houses in a row exploded by gas bottles.

Unable to escape, the smoke left kangaroos dead in the middle of the suburban street, lying next to children's playgrounds blackened by the heat.

By the local pub the bus went, its warning system still blaring, “emergency evacuate.”

A bus ferrying Tathra residents takes them on a tour of the fire-affected town. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

A bus ferrying Tathra residents takes them on a tour of the fire-affected town. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Across the road, looking out over the ocean from where he had protected his family home of 33 years, Clint Morehead said not enough back burning had been done, adding fuel to the fire as it moved towards the surf town.

Others were not so sure. Peter and Janet Howe said the emergency services could not have done more to protect the town from the ember attack.

Its random ruthlessness could be seen in the houses left untouched, ones with wooden decks, next door to crumbled mansions of bricks and mortar.

“It was like watching the Battle of Britain,” said Mr Howe.

Two days after they sheltered on the town’s headland hoping the fire wouldn’t reach them, the pair walked onto an empty beach and paddled out.

A semblance of routine had to return to Tathra, they said.

Tathra resident Clint Morehead stayed back in Tathra during the bushfire the previous night. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Tathra resident Clint Morehead stayed back in Tathra during the bushfire the previous night. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen