Firefighter Peter Bavington was trying to save other people’s homes during the “ferocious” blaze which destroyed his own as it tore through the small community of Carwoola on Friday.
The fire burned through 3500 hectares east of Queanbeyan and destroyed at least eight homes in the hot and windy conditions.
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers on Saturday praised Mr Bavington’s sheer selflessness in opting to battle the flames as they threatened neighbouring properties despite the cost to himself.
He wasn’t far from his own house on Widgiewa Road with an RFS crew when the wild blaze tore down the road and across his family home on Friday afternoon.
“The first fire had gone past I had checked home and it was okay and then there was a second firefront that came through,” he told AAP on Saturday.
“I’ve been in the RFS for 17 years and I think it was the most ferocious fire I’ve ever seen.”
Among the irreplaceable belongings lost were photographs and a piano Mr Bavington’s mother had learned to play on but he seemed in good spirits and resigned to the loss.
“We’re all safe, that’s the thing I’m focussing on. We’re really blessed,” he said. “We live in the bush, we know what the risks are. We always knew if there was a bad fire our house was likely to go. But everyone’s safe.”
More than a dozen homes were initially thought to have been lost in the blaze but the RFS confirmed only eight had been destroyed on Saturday afternoon.
Six dwellings were also damaged and almost 50 outbuildings had either been destroyed or damaged, with 85 per cent of the fireground assessed. Fifty six homes were saved by Mr Bavington and his colleagues.
One firefighter was burned during the effort and another suffered a crush injury but both were in a stable condition.
Mr Bavington praised his fellow volunteers and the evacuation system, saying clothes were found for his family – even sports gear for his son who had a game to play on Saturday morning.
“We’ve had lots of offers of support from the RFS and the community. One step at a time, one day at a time,” he said, adding he planned on rebuilding his home.
Almost 80 bush and grass fires are still burning throughout NSW, with 29 uncontained.