Leon Hagel is heartbroken. He lost two houses when the Currowan fire swept westward on December 23, one at Nerriga, the other at Charleys Forest.
The Nerriga house was his home for the past 11 years.
"My house was made out of rock, pit sawn timbers - yellow box - and sandstone inside. It was a beautiful house," he says, his eyes darkened by weeks of fatigue.
He recalls the events of December 23.
"I stayed at home, I had sprinklers on the roof, had the firehose running off the bore, hosing it down.
"Then the power went out so the bore went out and the fire started coming in hard and fast and it was time to leave. I would have fried over there."
Like everyone else in the town, he sheltered in the pub until the air got too thick with smoke and he ventured outside.
"Just as me and a mate walked out, a big gas bottle I'd wheeled away from the house exploded and we saw the fireball. The explosion rocked the pub.
"Of all luck I had a caravan over there that didn't burn but when the gas bottle exploded it flew, hit the roof of the caravan and ripped a hole through it."
"You think of all the things you've lost. Different things click in, like, everything Mum and Dad left me, stuff you can't replace. Yeah, it's still pretty raw."
While his Nerriga house was insured, the tractors, sheds, and collection of old Holden cars he was doing up were not.
"It's heartbreaking but the main thing is no one perished in all this. We can get on, we can rebuild, but if we lost soembody we couldn't recover from that."
While he got his dogs to safety, Leon's voice quavers when he talks about Rufus, the Bourke's parrot he had to leave behind in the house because his cage was too big to carry.
"I left him with seed and water and said, 'Sorry, mate, I can't take you with me.' It breaks my heart knowing he perished in there."
The insurance assessors are due out on Wednesday, January 22, and Leon is confident he'll get back on his feet.
A former firefighter at HMAS Albatross and RFS volunteer at Erowal Bay, the 60-year-old will not forget the Nerriga fire in a hurry.
"We saw a lot of fires back then but nothing on this scale."
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