Jack Daniels, beer after overnight blaze battle to save home

From Checkpoint, 5:54 pm on 14 November 2019

An Australian woman has told her story of survival after battling seven hours through the night to save her house from a deadly bushfire.

Ann Windress, her husband Mick and two relatives used hoses and buckets to stave off flames they say were thirty to forty feet high, on their Johns River property near Port Macquarie on Friday night.

The firestorm that firefighters say was the worst they'd ever seen, claimed the life of their next-door neighbour.

While she managed to save the house, some of the farm animals are still suffering.

Ann Windress spoke to Alex Perrottet just after burying her cow.

"We had actually been out to tea, it had calmed down a bit in the afternoon, so we headed off into Laurieton and had some Chinese."

But back home at about 10pm, the southerly wind hit.

"It sounded like a freight train coming," Ann said. "And I looked out the bedroom window and the whole price was just red.

"Within a minute, we were showered with embers, and the fight started.

"I screamed… and it was full on to the next seven hours. It was frightening, I don't want to go through that again.

"We just kept putting it out as soon as we saw it running across the lawn, and a fence post would go up so we'd another bucket of water over that, so it was pretty hectic for quite a few hours.

Ann's neighbour, just the next paddock over, was killed in the fire.

"We actually heard three explosions go off from her place which was probably the gas bottles and car or tractor or something.

"If we'd realised, and knew what was going on we may have been able to get over the paddocks to her, but it was a bit chaotic, you know we had to stay and fight for our home.

"I grabbed my dogs, couldn't find the four cats, but I grabbed the dogs and put them in the car and ran the car out into the middle of a paddock, where I thought they'd be safe, ran back and started putting out spot fires."

Ann was using a watering can.

"We only had two garden hoses going, and one had about three splits in it so there was water going everywhere but I suppose it didn't matter, we needed the water, but luckily that morning we had just got a load of water for our tanks… So, someone's looking after us."

She says the fire service came about three hours later.

"They said that we were actually right at the forefront of the worst fire storm they've ever witnessed.

"They said once a fire storm hits there's nothing they can do. They've just got to stand back and wait."

The flames got very close to the house, Ann said. "About 30 to 40-foot high. That was about 20 metres from our house. And the grass burnt within 10 metres.

"We were very lucky. We lost mum about a year ago, and a flame - one of the embers - got under her little granny flat. I ran over and put it out, but at that time I suppose I'd had enough and I looked up in the sky and I said, 'Mum, we need help'. And hours later it was saved.

"We walked in, 5am, to our bar, absolutely knackered my husband and I, had a Jack Daniels and a beer for brekkie. And I found a white feather at my foot. So that was to me a message from Mum, saying we did it."