They fled from the north and the south and found their way to safety on a patch of grass by the beach. There they spent a strange and sombre New Year's Eve, sharing food and drink with strangers and stories of dramatic escapes.
On the last day of the year, when it felt like everywhere along the South Coast was on fire, the towns of Ulladulla and Mollymook were blessedly spared the marauding path of the fire.
All through the afternoon and into the night, a steady flow of cars brought people to the official evacuation points, and to informal ones like the park at Mollymook Beach.
Most escaped terrifying scenes, particularly from the fire-ravaged south. Some had time to relocate camping sites, while many others brought in the new year stunned and weary on a pitch black night before sleeping uncomfortably in their cars.
Gundaroo locals Sandra and Mark Carmody, known to many as a former ABC Canberra weather presenter, were holidaying at Batemans Bay Big 4 next to Jo and Jonathan Taylor and their four-year-old son Jesse. Worried by the "horrendous" heat that built in the morning, the Carmodys pushed off with their camper trailer early. The Taylors stayed a little longer and soon after were forced to the beach behind their holiday park, joining hundreds of others watching fearfully as firefighting aircraft overhead hammered the fire as it attacked the beach.
"It was terrifying being there," Jo said. "You take the firefighters for granted sometimes, but seeing those aircraft overhead, you realise what it really means and how incredible they are".
When the chance presented itself, the Taylors fled in their car leaving all their campsite possessions behind. By good fortune they bumped into the Carmodys in Ulladulla and so they decided to reunite next to each other at Mollymook.
Next to them was Cara Page, of Fadden, and Shirley Green, visiting from South Africa. Their family group had been in a holiday home in Guerilla Bay when the warning to evacuate came and ash started falling from the sky.
After a frightening drive up the highway, they found themselves making do with whatever they could quickly pack in their car and boat.
"But everyone's been so friendly and kind," Ms Page said. "There were people walking around sharing ice cream cake last night.''
Rory Samson and Rochelle Pits were a long way from their home in Kinglake, Victoria. They moved into that community after it rebuilt from the 2009 Victoria fires.
Having set up camp at Potato Point, south of Moruya, any chance of heading south to Victoria evaporated and so they escaped north around lunchtime on New Year's Eve, getting as far as Milton where they were turned back.
They'll wait patiently for the road north to Nowra to reopen, and then make their long way home inland.
Of all the evacuees at Mollymook, few had a story as dramatic as that of Sharon Kane and her daughter Alex. They had been holidaying with friends at a house at Fishermans Paradise, north of Lake Conjola.
The husbands were off buying groceries and the wives and kids were watching news reports of the drama in Victoria, completely unaware that fire bore down on them until the urgent evacuation message came through.
"It was just so sudden. It just came out of nowhere," Sharon Kane said. "That's when the adventure really began."
The only option was to launch boats into the lagoon, where they drifted in terror as the fire jumped the water and surrounded them with choking smoke. Unable to get out of the lagoon and worried about being overcome by smoke, they returned to shore at what looked a particularly lush green garden. There they and a group of about six families, including about 15 children, worked with the owners of the house to put out spot fires on the property. People on jet skis ferried other stranded people to safety.
When the worst of the fire danger passed, the family returned to their holiday home by boat, jumped in the car then made their way through the roadblock at Milton.
They had a fitful sleep and spent the morning of the new year laid out on towels on the grass overlooking the beach. They were desperately tired, but like everyone around them, thankful to be there and be safe.