Residents faced an impossible choice as North Black Range fire approached

The view of the fire from Bendoura. Picture: Supplied
The view of the fire from Bendoura. Picture: Supplied

Andy Taylor and his partner, Melanie, took turns to sleep as the bushfire raged overnight around their property off Bombay Road, west of Braidwood.

They had spent much of the day rushing and fighting spot fires before the main front swept through.

In the blackest night, the fire beast calmed but it remained frightening - like a monster out of a gothic drama, with the crack of trees and bright red of burning branches shining like mad eyes out of the bush a short distance from their property.

They had been expecting the fire as it ravaged other neighbouring areas. The two daughters (Charlotte, 5, and Elliot, 2) were taken to relatives but the couple decided to stay and defend.

Andy Taylor and the home he saved. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Andy Taylor and the home he saved. Picture: Jamila Toderas

In trepidation.

"Your heart rate was going. It's just such an unknown," Mr Taylor said.

"We didn't know when it was going to come over the hill. It was just a waiting game."

They had been well prepared. The house is built of the right materials - metals and the hardest woods.

And they had 22,000 litres of water in one tank and 75,000 in another.

When the spot fires started, Mr Taylor mobilised his fire defence mini-tanker. "I jumped on the unit and raced around," he said, occasionally with flames underneath the vehicle.

When it got too much and when the main fire threatened the property, he dialed triple zero and help came.

The crews on the three trucks were the great saviours and Mr Taylor, himself a volunteer in the RFS, can't thank them enough.

Throughout the North Black Range fire that has burnt more than 20,000 hectares near Braidwood, there were urgent decisions to stay and defend or to leave on Sunday.

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In the Bendoura area, Louis Droulers was watching the fire front, which he said had been moving west to east but was shifting, creeping towards them.

Such was its size that it had its own microclimate with unpredictable winds and turbulence. He had seen a flash of lightning inside.

"It's a big fire, I tell you," he said. "Anything in nature of this scale, it's pretty awesome."

Mr Droulers is a volunteer with the Rural Fire Service and was fighting the same fire in Little Bombay on Friday night. On Sunday, he was protecting his own home, surround by bush on Cooma Road.

Most of his neighbours were also staying and were prepared.

Lucy Baumann-Lion, 17, and Jarrah Knowles, 18, decided to evacuate from their family homes. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Lucy Baumann-Lion, 17, and Jarrah Knowles, 18, decided to evacuate from their family homes. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Some people sought refuge in Braidwood itself.

Teenagers Jarrah Knowles from Bendoura and her friend Lucy Baumann-Lion from Bombay both decided to leave their homes.

"The fire was slowly creeping over the range and it broke all containment line so I decided to leave," said Lucy. Her father stayed and defended the house and livestock.

The two teenagers who live close to each other ended up watching the fire from safety.

"I just remember being up on the hill," said Knowles, "and knowing that Lucy's dad and uncle were in the fire and we couldn't do anything.

"We were just observing a catastrophic situation unfold."

They are both thankful for "the generosity of community and strangers."

This story The fire that moved like a beast first appeared on The Canberra Times.