When the bushfire "monster" hit Mallacoota, it was black, scary and ferocious.
It was everything Kirsty Hargreaves had imagined.
"When we got told it was coming, I just thought it was this big scary monster that just ripped through everything and you literally had no chance unless you ran."
Ms Hargreaves remembered when she was a child, her dad would be busy preparing their home for bushfire season.
But she was not really prepared when fire threatened the small Victorian coastal town on New Year's Eve.
She was busy working in her mum's cafe when there was an initial community meeting warning people fire was approaching.
"I felt like we were all going home to die. It was just this weird feeling," she told the bushfires royal commission.
Ms Hargreaves and her partner packed a few things, and ensured her nan and pop who live on the bush property were also set.
They all sheltered in the cafe with about 20 people - family, tourists and six dogs - not really knowing what to expect when the fire arrived and blackened the skies.
"It was black, really scary. It was really hard to breathe and hard to see," Ms Hargreaves said.
School principal Tim Cashmore had evacuated to the wharf with his wife, while thousands of locals and tourists fled to Mallacoota's beach as the isolated East Gippsland town was cut off.
"The ferocity of what did happen was extraordinary," he told the royal commission, also in pre-recorded testimony.
"When the fire head is here, there's the red glow, there's the smoke, but things go black.
"The noise is like a 747 taking off, it's just roaring at you.
"The radiant heat is hard enough."
The intensity and trauma are not easily forgotten.
One of the fireys who protected the school has been back to the college three times.
"He walks in, he sits down, he cries. He's one of the strongest men I've ever met, and he's given himself to us," Mr Cashmore said.
The town lost power for two weeks and remained isolated for days.
More than 1500 people were evacuated by the Australian Defence Force, in Australia's largest peacetime humanitarian rescue mission since Cyclone Tracy.
About 100 homes were lost, including those of Ms Hargreaves and her grandparents.
Ms Hargreaves and her colleagues at the real estate agency have worked to help those who lost homes find somewhere to live.
The town, home to about 1000 locals, was trying to get back to normal when the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions hit.
"For Mallacoota, it has been a double whammy," Mr Cashmore said.
Still, the proud principal has enormous faith in his community.
"Mallacoota will rise, and it is rising now," he said.
Australian Associated Press
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