Nienke Van Doorn and her husband David Shepheard only narrowly escaped the Tathra bushfires in 2018 that destroyed 65 homes and 30 caravans in the area.
The speed at which embers from the fire jumped Blackfellows Lake caught them and their small community entirely off guard.
The 71-year-old who lives in Kalaru remembers that day David, 73, yelled, "Nienke run!" as flames licked at their carport. She said it took around three minutes for the flames to rush over from the distant hills on to their doorstep.
She ran to her car but starting it would have been disastrous, so jumped out, grabbed the dog, and ran to her husband's car which was already up on the driveway.
They ended up on the beach that evening with the two dogs and damp towels over their heads.
"I literally ran for my life," Ms Van Doorn said. "We didn't have time to grab anything. We left with nothing but the clothes on our back."
Their tin two-storey house on Thompsons Drive was completely burnt down. What remained of the contents of their home now fits in two cardboard boxes of mainly cast iron pots, pans, and utensils.
"Not even the chook pen was left," she said.
That day changed everything for them. They had to completely re-evaluate their future and essentially start again. Ms Van Doorn described feeling like there was only really "before and after the fire".
"We would have never built this house," she said about the new house she has spent the past three years building. "We were perfectly happy in our old house. It was nice."
Having completed a sustainable housing design course through a university, Ms Van Doorn decided, "it's not going to burn down again," and so has designed their new home with the intention to make it completely bushfire resilient. An architect was able to finalise the plans she had worked on.
"It's not going to burn down again and next time I'll be able to get out with my life and this is it, this is where we are going to live."
The house has been built "tucked in" further down the hill on their property so that it will be better shielded from bushfires. The new location also has "better views" since so much of the bush was burnt.
The view is spectacular and looks straight down over Blackfellows Lake and out towards the adjacent bushland. "We never know we had that view," she said.
While Ms Van Doorn gets contractors in to do the aspects she can't do herself, she has been able to teach herself how to do a lot of the work on her own.
She even gifted herself a handsaw for her 71st birthday this year and was able to teach herself engineering concepts in order to create a suspended roof below the 300 tonnes of concrete on the roof.
Her husband is in the process of needing a hip replacement and has not been very mobile so much of the decision making around the house has been left to her.
"I'm an older lady and in my era women didn't do stuff like this, we weren't even allowed to work after we married," she said.
Although she has found some of the tradesmen she has worked with patronising because of her age - "it's just the attitude, like you suddenly get to a certain age and you become stupid" - she has found it to be empowering to create the home she wanted using her own knowledge.
Design principles create bushfire-resilient home
The use of concrete was to aid in the bushfire resilience of the house. There is also no timber on the house's exterior and there will be no trees surrounding the property, only grass.
The plunge pool is another fire-fighting system with piping that leads to the roof to a sprinkler system that can be triggered by a smartphone. It also accounts for some of the litres of still water required by regulations for bushfire prone areas.
Ember screens that will shield the windows will also be installed, which will come down through use of a smartphone, a switch, or a sensor that triggers automatically in certain heat.
The windows are also heavy and have dual glass layers and there are exits in each room of the house.
The house has also been designed with its ecological footprint in mind.
The sewage system is a compost system that uses worms to break down faecal matter. The roof is full of solar panels that supply the entire house via a Tesla battery system and will also keep the power on during a bushfire.
The water for the house is stored in a big underground concrete tank, meaning the property would also be able to continue to be supplied with water in the event of an emergency. The tank holds 107,000L of water.
"During the fires one pump exploded about the same time we discovered a fire coming towards us and by that point it was 50 feet away. The electricity also went off maybe two and a half hours before the fire so we had no water to fight the fire."
Future-proof build for ageing occupants
But that's not all. Ms Van Doorn has designed the home to be future-proof by building a "whole of life house" which takes the couple's age into account.
The house is a single storey and has only flat surfaces. The corridors are wide enough to fit a wheelchair and the bathroom can also accommodate a carer if the need arises for showering.
The opposite end of the house can also be easily converted into living quarters for a carer, otherwise it could work as an intergenerational home.
The driveway also has sensor lights and a door that automatically unlocks when they are pulling up in their driveway, thanks again to a smartphone mechanism.
At the end of the driveway sits a charging port for an electric car or an electric mobility scooter.
Art helps bushfire-affected victims heal
One of the ways that Ms Van Doorn has dealt with the trauma of the bushfires and having lost everything, including her priceless collection of artwork, is through art.
Additionally she has created a mural on her kitchen wall which she is still in progress of finalising and has put together a few lines of text which are very personal to her and a reminder of how everything can change in an instant.
The woman on the wall is a reflection of her past and present self and a reminder of how she fled for her life with just the clothes on her back.
"You've got to do something to make a new life for yourself I reckon," she said.