Hillville resident Rodney O'Regan OAM has seen many disasters, as a Vietnam veteran and retired police officer. He has multiple scars from bullet wounds sustained through his work and service. He's used to disasters, he says, but the Hillville fire is a personal disaster.
On Thursday night, getting into his car to head to Kempsey, Rodney spied fire on top of the hill near Maryland Close, Hillville. He called 000, and stayed to keep an eye on the fire.
"It just rapidly took off from right from left as I looked at it," Rodney says.
The fire didn't head Rodney's way until around 10pm Thursday. But then it reached his boundary at Hillville Road and Maryland Close. Firefighters contained it, but it jumped Hillville Road into a couple of properties east of Rodney's, which the firefighters again put out.
"Then we had the night of sitting up on fire watch," Rodney says.
Rodney watched as the fire burnt out the back of his block - 50 to 60 hectares worth - on Sunday and Monday. Then on Tuesday, it grew.
"What it didn't pick up on the weekend, it got me on the grasslands the next day," Rodney said.
"It's been a drama."
Thankfully, Rodney did not lose any structures, but he did lose fences and his dam water pump. He is still putting out spot fires - the first time I called he couldn't talk. He was uncharacteristically panicked as he worked to put out a spot fire.
Rodney is eternally grateful to the firies, the chopper, which dropped six buckets of water on his property, and his neighbours.
"The fire blokes are all fantastic. What saved the day is all the neighbours came in to help me, then they all had to go and look after their own places. I've never felt so lonely in all my life as when they left," he says.
I've been ringing around trying to get people to come and get the horses. I'm just hoping someone will come and take them away and look after them.Rodney O'Regan OAM
"I've got one fellow by the name of Dennis Ellem who lives at the bottom, and without him, I'd have nothing, I'd be homeless.
His eight beloved horses, six of them retired police horses, are unhurt as are 30 head of cattle.
But there is barely little feed and water on his property, and Rodney needs help.
"I'll be in trouble," he says.
"I've been ringing around trying to get people to come and get the horses. I'm just hoping someone will come and take them away and look after them.
"But everyone's burnt out, the same as me."