Paradise lost: A piece of heaven devoured by hellfire
MECHANIC Warren Smith will this afternoon return to the smouldering remains of his flattened home, where he is looking forward to a private cry.
The house was destroyed by a fast-moving out of control bushfire on Ellems Quarry Road in Nana Glen on the north coast, which burned so hot firefighters had to retreat at about 5.30pm on Tuesday.
The home was Mr Smith's "heaven", where he could enjoy the peaceful surrounds and decompress from the stresses of work.
"It was our own little sanctuary where I couldn't give a shit about the world or stresses of work," Mr Smith said.
"It was an old cottage, which was my little slice of heaven.
"I'll go up there and have a bit of a cry, get that over and done with, and then start clearing and rebuilding."
The 61-year-old last saw his home briefly yesterday morning, before the fires hit, to collect his parents' valuables that he had forgotten to pack.
"I raced back to get an old clock of mum's she was given when she first got married in 1947," he said.
"There was an old fob watch of dad's too, that he got from working on the railways in Sydney back in the 50s."
Mr Smith evacuated to Coffs Harbour, where he was hoping for the best after being told personally by firefighters to leave.
The Daily Telegraph spoke to Mr Smith in Coffs Harbour as he was given the news nothing was left of his home of 22 years by a friend who was allowed through a roadblock to assess the damage.
Water bombers were this morning flying over the charred rubble of Mr Smith's home to keep fighting the Liberation Trail fire, which is still out of control although it had been downgraded from an emergency status.
Mr Smith described his emotions as a mixture of sadness and frustration.
"I'm trying not to cry," Mr Smith said.
"I've been working all my life to afford my home and now it's all gone, it's just a memory."
While full of praise for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers from Nana Glen and Glenreagh who put themselves between his home and the fire front, Mr Smith took aim at environmental activists opposed to hazard reduction burns.
"If I ever get anyone here start telling me about not burning off I'll give them both barrels," he said.
"The Aboriginals have been burning off for god knows how long, because they knew it's a dry country and bushfires are a fact of life."
At least three homes have been destroyed between Nana Glen and Glenreagh, although efforts to accurately assess the full extent of the carnage have been hampered by fallen power lines over local roads.
Others were pinching themselves to find their homes hadn't burned down, such as Chris and Ann Edwards.
At the Edwards' boundary fence, 50 metres from the back door, an old home on a neighbouring property belonging to Les Pitman and Bettina Hartinger-Pitman was completely destroyed.
Mason jars left in the dishwasher at the Pitman's property had melted down to become one blob of glass.
A shed where Ms Hartinger-Pitman groomed dogs was also destroyed.
"We evacuated and we thought the fire had completely missed our place, but when we got back the trees were like Roman candles, with flames shooting out the top, and Les' old place had burned down," Mr Edwards said.
"The fire burned right to our back fence, so it's a miracle we didn't lose our house, which is on the market."