Burrowye CFA volunteer George Kucka had already faced the brute force of the fire that surrounded his Guys Forest property west of Corryong.
With wife Fiona and his two adult sons, George described the scene as “like looking into the jaws of a dragon”.
But when assessing the property damage and stock, George lopped off the top of two of his fingers attempting to assist a cow stuck in a concrete dip.
George was trying to manoeuvre the trapped cow to assist in extracting it from the dip, when the animal shifted its weight sideways jamming George’s fingers against the solid concrete.
“I knew I had to quickly get my fingers out or I was going to be stuck,” George said. What followed was two trips to hospitals in Albury and Melbourne to repair the injured digits.
However, the injury did not keep George away from his home for long, urgently taking action to recover stock, fix fences and obtain fodder.
Thankfully his main property beared the fruits of having an orchard in front, with the mixture of trees and spacing slowing the approach of the fire and allowing the family to frantically defend.
Unfortunately, the family faces blackened ground on their 1200-hectare property, two buildings destroyed and about 25 per cent of their 600-head cattle dead.
His son Ethan said the family were at the front of the property watching the fire flank along the ridges on one side of the property, before the opposite flank was suddenly alight.
Both reflected on the scene as something never experienced before, with the speed of the fire and sound never to be forgotten.
“It was an inferno. We had 60-kilometre winds blowing embers everywhere, spot fires all around us and it burnt within metres of the house,” George said.
“We were left with not a blade of grass on the ground, our stock that are about to calve seeking feed, and our power and communications in the region gone.”
Reflective of many attitudes throughout the community, George considers themselves among the lucky ones.
“There are people who have lost more than us. At the end of the day everyone survived, and we managed to save the house,” George said.
“Sadly, if you don’t smile, you cry. And we just have to keep moving forward.”