Pilot Officer Isabella Filmer did not know what to expect when she recently boarded a flight back to her hometown of Mallacoota for an overnight visit to be reunited with her family.
A trainee on Basic Pilots' Course at No. 1 Flying Training School at RAAF Base East Sale, she sat alongside returning evacuees and first-responders on board a C-27J Spartan for a flight into Mallacoota.
While she was relieved that her family and their home had survived the bushfires, she was nervous about the impact it had on Mallacoota and its residents.
"I had received reports from various sources, that included social media from back home, and it was hard coming to terms knowing how many people had lost their homes," Pilot Officer Filmer said.
While her family had survived the fires, they were in the middle of the efforts to fight the out of control blaze.
The effort to protect their local community was a family effort.
"My younger brother Mikey was out fighting the fires with our local CFA unit, while step-mum Tracey manned the radios. My sister Ashlee was by her side the whole time watching the situation unfold," Pilot Officer Filmer said.
"Meanwhile, my dad Stuart decided to stay on property and fight the fire on his own," she said.
Stuart, also a CFA volunteer firefighter, was able to save the family home despite the fire leaving scorch marks down one side of the house. Approximately 80-90 per cent of their property was blackened by the devastating bushfire, which included the loss of several sheds and fencing.
"While I am really grateful that my family are okay, my heart really goes out to Mallacoota's residents and all they have gone through, especially those who have lost their homes," she said.
"It is such a tragedy but they are a strong community and will undoubtedly support each other in the days and months ahead."