A FORMER Nowra family, who moved to Cooma 10 months ago looking for a new life, have had everything destroyed in the bushfires that roared through the area.
Geoff and Nicole McKenzie have lost everything except the clothes on their back and what items they could squeeze into the boot of their car after the bushfire at Mount Forest Road destroyed their home.
The family, Connor, 8, Tyler 6 and Elizabeth, 2, had moved from Nowra to the 30 acre property about 20 minutes from Cooma on Mount Forest Road, Carlaminda.
“Nicole and I both grew up in the Shoalhaven, Nicole at Callala Beach and me at Sussex, both went to Shoalhaven High School and we still have family in the area,” Mr McKenzie said.
“We were looking for a bit of space, a country change, some peace and quiet,” he said.
They had owned the property, which included a shed, two caravans and a shipping container for just over a year and were planning to build a house there.
Now all that stands is an empty shell, ash and a generator that survived the blaze.
“We are gutted. It is not so much the shed. It’s the possessions that we have lost,” said Mr McKenzie, who had worked at Reece Plumbing in Nowra, a company he still works for in Cooma.
“Things like my great grandfather’s war medals and Christmas presents the kids just got.”
The family fled their home on Sunday, January 6 when a bushfire started in the area.
“We could see the fire two properties away and when it was safe, at about 6pm, packed the car with clothes and important documents, drove to town and stayed in a motel,” he said.
“We couldn’t get out before that, but when it cleared we got straight out.
“When they started the water bombing it became a bit more serious.”
On the following Tuesday morning they drove to Pambula to drop the children to their grandmother’s house, while they went out to the fire and watched it from a neighbour’s property.
“The wind was just crazy out there,” Mr McKenzie said.
With crews defending the property throughout the day, the couple decided to go into town about 5.30pm for dinner when it looked like their home would be safe.
After dinner they received a call from a neighbour who told them the news.
“We went up there but couldn’t see because of the smoke,” Mr McKenzie said.
Mrs McKenzie said she was too upset to look.
“It was all gutted. All gone,” Mr McKenzie said.
“We put all the more important stuff in the shipping container but it blew apart.”
The couple went back to their property on Wednesday morning to have a closer look.
They described what was left as an “empty shell” and “ash”.
The Cooma community has come to the couple’s aid.
“The community has just been amazing,” Mr McKenzie said.
Their friend Jim McDonald from the Cooma Martial Arts Centre offered them temporary accommodation and set up an appeal to help the family get back on their feet.
“We just can’t believe how everyone has really got together for us,” Mrs McKenzie said.
“It’s been amazing. Especially what Jim has done for us.
“What everyone has done, it has made such a bad situation easier to deal with.”
A special community account has been established for the couple at the Cooma Westpac Bank.
Details are as follows - the account is in the name of Geoff and Nicole McKenzie - BSB 032720 account number 201675.
Despite the loss, Mrs McKenzie said they still planned to build at the property.
“We will be back,” she said.