Bellangry cattle farmers Julie and Darren Sage lost their entire farm operation to fire but say they are happy to be alive.
The couple attended the BlazeAid thank you gathering in Wauchope on Saturday, February 15.
Event speakers included Port Macquarie-Hastings Council mayor Peta Pinson, and NSW RFS assistant commissioner Jason Heffernan.
Mrs Sage said her husband had just returned home after undergoing an operation at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on November 8, 2019 when the bushfire struck.
"I walked out the front door around 5.45pm when an ember landed in the paddock next door. It just went up in flames," she said.
"Darren went to check on it and came back saying there were four foot flames in the gully near us."
The pair called the fire brigade, and within five minutes there were four fire trucks at their door.
The couple had already prepacked some clothes and were prepared to leave - taking their dogs with them.
But the situation turned bad. And quickly.
"We had a false sense of security that we would be okay, but the fire came up the hill and over the gully so quickly that the firefighters had to leave for their own lives," said Mrs Sage.
"By the time we drove down the road to the dairy farm all the mountain was on fire and within 15 minutes our five-bedroom house was gone. The sheds, farm equipment, fences and my car were burnt.
"The Yarrowitch fire was the one that came quickly towards us and we didn't have any time.
"Warnings were only updated after it burnt our house down, but I don't blame anyone because it was just so fast moving."
The mountain was on fire and within 15 minutes our five-bedroom house was gone.Julie Sage
The pair count themselves lucky to be alive and have been given 12 months accommodation in Port Macquarie. They have pledged to rebuild stronger than what was lost.
Mr Sage, who celebrated his 55th birthday at the BlazeAid thank you event, estimated he has lost $200,000 in farm assets from the fire along with 30 head of cattle.
He says government red tape has hamstrung farmers wanting to complete their own hazard reduction burns .
"I lit a fire on my property in May last year because I could see there was too much fuel on the ground. There was some complaints and the fire brigade turned up to put it out," he said.
"I lit up the paddocks up again but it was again put out. If they had let me do it, my house and all my belongings would be still there today. I know that as a fact.
"I'm that wild and bitter about it. All my farm machinery, all my fences, all my infrastructure and treasures are gone.
"In my eyes the rules that are in place need to be dismantled and we all need input to remake them. Otherwise this will happen again in 30 years' time."
In my eyes the rules that are in place need to be dismantled and we all need input to remake them. Otherwise this will happen again in 30 years time.Darren Sage
The BlazeAid event in Wauchope was also attended by Sydney community group, Brothers in Need, who provided the barbecue lunch, food and support. Wauchope Rotary and the Wauchope Show Society also supported the event.
Asst Com Heffeman thanked front line fighters who had battled "through an horrendous experience".
"I have a message to the community and more so the front line firefighters that are here today," he said. "It's okay not to be okay and it's okay to talk to people about not being okay.
"You have been through an horrendous experience together and you should be talking about it together.
"From my perspective, to the volunteers here today, I say thank you and recognise you've been at it for some 200 or more days. It has been tiring.
"I know many of you have suffered personally and many of you have suffered financially in giving of yourself to the community.
"From myself, the commissioner and the government we say thank you very much."
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