'One gust and it turned to chaos'

SCOTT Keeley and Darren Whitton were supposed to be enjoying a day off when the temperature rose and the flames arrived.

The two Aberdare residents became the defenders of Comerford Close for the day, holding the fort as spot fires threatened to raze homes along the rural street.

As well as hosing off their own homes, they protected neighbours' yards and battled blazes from the rooftops.

"We were here from the start and then basically stood here all day hosing it down," Mr Keeley told the Newcastle Herald.

"All it took was just one gust of wind and everything turned to chaos. Then it was just a scramble to save everything and everyone went into action."

One of their neighbour's gutters caught on fire and the two men rushed to stop it spreading.

Mr Whitton even fell from the roof but escaped injury.

He said he had lived in the street for 30 years with wife, Sonia, and had never seen such a blaze.

"We have seen four or five fires but this is the worst one yet," Mr Whitton said.

"You have got to give it to the firies, they did a fantastic job."

Mrs Whitton added that the emergency services deserve high praise for their work.

"Australia Day has to be all about them," she said.

"Not individuals, just them as a whole."

Mr Keeley said he saw a huge tree explode just 50 metres away.

"I could feel little hot embers falling down and burning my skin," he said.

"Just from the heat, if we had marshmallows on sticks we could have roasted them easy."

"This just makes me feel even more for the people of Coonabarabran.

"We are here and we are still OK, but their houses have gone."

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