GALLERY: Tales of loss and hope at hands of bushfire in Harwood
AFTER weeks of battling bushfires and doing all they can to protect themselves and their neighbours, the Harwood Hotel was a welcome place of refuge for many impacted through Ashby, Mororo and Tullymorgan Rd to name a few places impacted by the Myall Creek Rd fire.
As the bushfire continues to burn out of control, and smoke haze blanketing the Clarence Valley is almost as ubiquitous as the jacarandas in Grafton or the Tartan telegraph poles in Maclean, familiar stories were shared over sausage and egg rolls at the pub.
Stories of close calls, and of carnage among the inferno. Stories of neighbours doing what they can to support their friends, and the desperate attempts of people to save their homes.
Mark and Laura Wayshner were "in the thick of it" at Mororo at the height of the Myall Creek Rd blaze. With volunteer firefighters stretched to the limit, neighbours did what they could to help each other keep the fire at bay.
Mr Wayshner recalls dousing out spotfires near his house with buckets and hoses through the night and into the morning, doing what he could to save his home and the homes of others until the aircraft cavalry could arrive.
However with high temperatures and strong winds continuing, they know the threat is still not entirely over.
"It's just not finished," Mrs Wayshner said.
"It's all a big effort but we've got great neighbours and a great community and we all look out for each other, it's all we can do really."
Ashby Heights resident Ray Phillis said he was lucky to still have a house, but a lot of property was lost to the fire.
"There's no electricity, no sewerage, water tanks. I've lost my garage, my car burnt inside the garage and I've lost everything in it that I've been saving for 30 years," he said.
"Insurance is coming to the party but they're slow and they won't be able to replace everything. As the fireball came down my street the hot water system on the roof just started spewing out this stuff, it was awful."
With headlines of bushfire and destruction a daily sight in Australia, Alleshia Butcher was surprised to find a photo of herself from Mororo had made it to the Netherlands, when a neighbour snapped a photo and sent it to his native homeland.
"The fear can be heard in the voice of Caroline Maul-Wiersma. The Dutchwoman, who has been living in Australia for 35 years, in the area where wild forest fires are raging, sees the fire approaching. She and her family are in the starting blocks to flee and leave their beloved farm," Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
"We fared a lot better than others, we can't complain," Ms Butcher said.
"I was surprised when I got sent the link that we had made it to a Dutch newspaper, it's incredible."
Out of the ashes, there's hope things will improve. Barbara Brownlow, from Ashby Heights, has nothing but blacked out bushland on her 500ha property, but there's one green shoot standing out among the landscape: a shooting cycad, growing by the day.
Mrs Brownlow's property used to be a wildlife sanctuary due to her volunteer work with WIRES, and since the blaze swept through Ashby animals have started to return.
"Once we get some rain everything will shoot up and will be green again," she said through a desperate smile. If only it would bloody rain.
While bushfire wasn't far from everybody's mind, Harwood Hotel's Cheryl Smith said the day was a chance for people to share their stories and debrief.
"It's what we need in a time like this," the Mororo resident said.
"We've just very lucky and blessed to have Harwood and the surrounding communities to support us."