'We missed a bullet': the homes that were saved from the Carwoola fire

Michaela Wake inspects her horses. She was forced to leave them behind as she couldn't get a horse float to her property in time before fire swept through. Photo: Jay Cronan
Michaela Wake inspects her horses. She was forced to leave them behind as she couldn't get a horse float to her property in time before fire swept through. Photo: Jay Cronan

Ken Doolan armed himself with a sprinkler when embers rained down on his Carwoola home last Friday.

As the flames crackled closer, the retired rear admiral wrapped a soggy towel around his head and doused himself in water as he prepared to defend his home of 23 years.

"This is where my final fight was," he said, crunching though blackened grass just metres from his house on Sunday.

"I was walking around with a sprinkler in my hand keeping myself wet and putting out spot fires. I had a towel wrapped around my head, I couldn't see, the smoke was so thick.

"As a last resort I had planned to retreat into the dam with a wet towel on my head. This simple piece of kit cost me very little but it saved me."

When the fire trucks rumbled down Whiskers Creek Road, Mr Doolan was sipping his third big glass of water. The house had been saved, but the shed was lost.

"I'd have lost the house without the 12,000 gallon tank. We missed a bullet," Mr Doolan said.

Eleven homes were lost and 12 more were damaged in the fire which razed more than 3100 hectares south-east of Queanbeyan.

Pete Christie, planning officer for Office of Emergency Management, Disaster and Welfare Services, said more than 50 people came through the evacuation centre set up at the Q Threatre in Queanbeyan on Friday.

"Since then there's been people come through just to receive a little bit of information, not very many at this stage. The evacuation side has closed down and we're currently operating as an information and assistance point," Mr Christie said

"People who have been affected by the fires can still come here and receive assistance for emergency accommodation, material aid and a nice ear to talk to as well an information updates that are supplied to us through RFS."

Ken Doolan prepared to fight the on coming fire on Friday afternoon. Photo: Jay Cronan

Ken Doolan prepared to fight the on coming fire on Friday afternoon. Photo: Jay Cronan

Daniel Wake's family spent a night in emergency accommodation as they waited to learn the fate of their home.

Mr Wake was in Brisbane when he received the hysterical phone call from his wife, Michaela.

She was loading chickens, dogs and whatever else would fit into a trailer as she prepared to flee.

There wasn't enough time to get their horses to safety but miraculously they survived.

Their house survived too, largely unscathed aside from scorched bricks where the flames licked its side.

"There's soot all though the house. The fire came so close, you can see the ashes just outside the door where the children's toys are inside," Mr Wake said.

A neighbour was fixing their paddock fence on Sunday, as friends helped with the clean-up. Mr Wake said he had not met the neighbour before.

"The community response has been just incredible," Mr Wake said.

An appeal has been launched to help those affected by the fires. Donations can be deposited into the Carwoola Bushfire Appeal account – BSB 032724, account number 362257 or made in person at Westpac branches.

Lifeline 131 114, beyondblue: 1300 224 636