SURVIVORS of the fatal firestorm that ripped through Barwidgee on Saturday night, yesterday fought back tears as news two of their neighbours had been killed defending their home, spread through the community.
Many of the residents of the small district on the outskirts of Myrtleford had stayed to defend their homes, as they did in the 2003 and 2006 fires.
None knew of the fury that was about to be unleashed on them.
Yesterday they counted the cost — at least eight homes destroyed, countless sheds gutted, machinery, cars, dead animals — but for most the almost unspeakable tragedy that two of their own had perished put it all in perspective.
Sam Crisci, who runs the sports store in Myrtleford, said he feared for his life as his home of 30 years on the Stanley Road was destroyed.
“I thought that we could defend it, I had a full tank of water, pumps ready but nothing could prepare you for that,” he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it ... the flames were crackling like a whip.
“I headed towards Mudgegonga, but it was 1.5km of fire going at a high speed across the road.
“It was a wall of flames and a gale blowing across the road, I jumped over a few small trees.
“But ... while I was going through that fire, a couple, two doors up had their own battle, I just can’t explain how that makes me feel.
“At the moment I’m just happy to be alive.”
Kevin and Robyn Norris planned to fight the fire that gutted their Myrtleford-Yackandandah Road garden business.
“It was just a huge fireball ... sitting on the ridge for a couple of hours then all of a sudden it took off,” Mr Norris said.
“Flames were about 40ft in the air, tearing through the trees, the noise just deafening.
“Both sides of the road were alight. Flames actually overtook us as we were driving out.”