Trapped in a raging firestorm: See the terrifying video
PETER Davis has been a member of the CFS for nearly 50 years but says he has never witnessed a more intense fire than the one that razed his son's Kangaroo Island farm.
"We were in the middle of the biggest firestorm I've ever seen and we survived," the 73-year-old says.
"Even Ash Wednesday was mild compared with this."
Mr Davis grew up on the property in Gosse in the island's west, selling it to son Ben about 12 years ago.
On Friday, January 3, Mr Davis, Ben and his other son Brenton stayed to defend the property, enduring the fire's ferocity for about four minutes as the front moved over the homestead.
"You see huge amounts of embers, you see things flying through the air and these twisters where flames go up like a tornado," he says.
"It's awesome - it's unbelievable the power and the combustion of things and the noise is intense.
"It picked up a trampoline and threw it on the corner of the house and the car and then it picked it up again and threw it another 20m."
Mr Davis, owner of the Island Beehive honey business, says after the fire passed through they packed up a few items and seeing the roof's ridge cap was ablaze, knew they had to get out fast.
"We had to cut the fence to get out because every other way was blocked," he says.
"While we were doing that, the roof fell in and the eastern part of the house that we'd had the vehicles sitting by exploded. We just drove away."
The enormity of the experience "doesn't hit you until afterwards", Mr Davis says.
"Like the doc says, tears are the best lubricators for eyes so if you have shit in your eyes, you need to cry, and I've done a bit of that."
Mr Davis's daughter-in-law Sabrina says she evacuated her home about 1.30pm, bound for Kingscote with her two children and their dogs.
"My husband shoved me out the door when the fire was about 3km away," she says.
"The front was 15m high and there was nothing that was going to stop it. They could see the wallabies dying outside the window. We lost the house, the sheds and all the stock and vehicles."
In a twist of fate, she says her German heritage may have helped save those who stayed on the farm.
"I had bought German-standard (kitchen) windows which were double glazed and 10mm thick."
She said there was "no question" that the family would return to farm on the property.