They were the stars of every TV news channel last week with live crosses from the burnt remains of their front and backyard.
Simon and Tara-Lea Albury found themselves in the glare of TV cameras after a raging fire front came through their backyard on Tuesday afternoon threatening their Winmalee home that night.
A fire tanker from Warrimoo melted in their blackened yard with several firemen requiring treatment in hospital — one for burns and others for smoke inhalation — after being forced to take cover inside the truck when the inferno struck. This week those firemen were still not ready to speak about that traumatic incident.
Mrs Albury managed to evacuate with her children, aged four and 19 months, “through a firewall” soon after 3pm. Close friends (James Diamond, Matt Richards and Brendon Voss) risked their own lives and cycled past roadblocks to assist Mrs Albury’s husband and mother-in-law Denise De Freitas overnight. The trio brought food in backpacks and assisted in fire watch shifts so their friend and his mother could get some sleep.
“I was petrified for my husband and mother-in-law” Mrs Albury told the Gazette. “It was a brand new experience for me, it’s my husband’s family home. He’s lived here [in the Mountains] for many years.”
Initial reports suggested the Alburys had lost their home which is about 1km from Winmalee’s public high school and shops, near the sign for Hawkesbury Heights.
“Because it got so close they suspected it had gone up. There were a few spot fires in the gutter [but] we were lucky enough that the home managed to escape.”
The Rural Fire Service “was up and down the street all night” protecting homes, Mrs Albury said.
The roof was singed, their three chickens died, the trampoline’s gone, the stable was burnt, but most of the animals that shared their 11 acres survived.
“There were seven dogs in the house, four goats in the garage and a black cockatoo hanging in a chandelier ...I would have put the horses in the house but they wouldn’t co-operate, they were so freaked out by the heavy smoke,” said Ms De Freitas, who wouldn’t leave knowing her animals were at risk.
The family were on holidays and were due to leave to attend a friend’s wedding in Thredbo. They had just popped home around 2pm to gather some holiday supplies. About 40 minutes later “a fire front was coming up through the backyard” and the firemen were evacuated due to injury, Mrs Albury said.
“My daughter’s a bit croaky, my son was excited with so many fire trucks to play with and getting dirty,” she told the Gazette last Wednesday.
They managed to make the wedding where Tara-Lea was maid of honour and daughter Sadie a flower girl.
Across the road Josh Jones and his dad Steve were also counting their blessings after fighting the fire for several hours without help, using only a garden hose and buckets of water from their pool. Firefighters took over about 7pm giving them a chance to rest. “We won’t need hazard reduction for a while,” Josh added laughing.
Watch a video of Steve and Josh Jones on the Gazette’s Facebook page.