THIS time last year Tony Halpin sat in the seat of his utility, his face blackened by ash, his home and shed burning in the background.
The fire that roared out of the Walla tip and raced across the grasslands destroyed his and four other homes at Gerogery.
For days afterwards the volunteer firefighter was too scared to return home.
But Mr Halpin says it was the family home and he would fight again.
Now an almost finished new home stands on the site — Timbercrete used to fireproof the walls, steel used for the roof frames and 24,000 litres of rainwater tanks to top up firefighting supplies.
“I couldn’t run from here, this is the family home, where my kids were raised,” he said.
“Some might say it is overkill with the new home.
“But standing here, knowing you couldn’t save the family home with that fire from hell what would you do?
“No one would want to see a mongrel fire like that again but we are ready.”
Mr Halpin says he tries not to think about the fire.
“The shockwave hit me when I was on the roof, I thought safety, time to get down from here and I walked inside and the wood heater was alight,” he said.
“I remember other things, some are a bit vague.
“I remember the phone call from a mate at Walla and half an hour later my house was on fire, the police trying to get people out, me in my fire overalls telling them I could see it coming.
“The grass in the paddock over there was only shin high but the flames, and I’m on the roof, were as high as me.
“I didn’t notice the heat at the time.
“But my lungs were burnt from smoke inhalation, I didn’t realise until I went to have a beer that night, I couldn’t touch hot drinks for a month.
“I sent my son to get another firefighting pump and there were trees falling around him, I could have lost him, too.”