The flames were so close they licked the back walls of Robina Otrupcek’s home, but the house still stands, barely scarred by the fire that has claimed 53 properties to date.
Mrs Otrupcek’s home was featured in a terrifying photo published online a week ago, the red-and-white structure dwarfed by the mountain of smoke and flame behind it.
Today it is surrounded by devastation and its owner is amazed the house she built herself in Coonabarabran over 15 years ago suffered not much more than a lost septic tank and water pump motor.
Mrs Otrupcek told Fairfax she believed its distinctive red roof was perhaps its saviour, attracting the aircraft that water bombed it to protect it from the flames.
Last Sunday Mrs Otrupcek went out for lunch and when she returned she saw smoke, but was not too worried and settled down with a book.
She packed some things – including her old Girl Guides badges – in case she had to leave, and later heard from daughter Felicity Bibb an evacuation order had been issued, before the rescue squad knocked on her door and told her to go.
The next morning she still had no idea whether her home had survived before she went to the doctor’s to make an appointment, where the receptionist was the mother of her neighbour.
It was only after hearing of her neighbour’s battle against the fire that she learnt her home still existed.
Six of her immediate neighbours were not so lucky, although three or four others – including the receptionist’s son – still have their homes.
“It’s funny, because I don’t have a big feeling of survivor’s guilt, which often happens,” Mrs Otrupcek said.
“But from the start I just thought it was in God’s hands.”
She is now awaiting the replacement of the septic tank and water pump motor before returning.
The most awful thing, Mrs Otrupcek said, was not the singed landscape she would face, but that from the small close-knit community, she might not see some of her neighbours for a long time.