South Coast fires: Fiona Kotvojs and Alan Burdon ready for round two

Fiona Kotvojs describes Charmaine Jamieson, Glen Thompson and Eric Croker as
Fiona Kotvojs describes Charmaine Jamieson, Glen Thompson and Eric Croker as "our three angels". The trio helped Ms Kotvojs and her husband Alan Burdon save their Dignams Creek homes and buildings on January 23.

The little community of Dignams Creek on the NSW South Coast lost two homes in January.

Watching a water-bombing helicopter from her window on Saturday, Fiona Kotvojs said the area was surrounded by fire.

"We are a bit like a community in the mouth of the dragon," she said.

"When I go outside at night I can see fire 360 degrees around our home."

She is unlikely to forget watching a fire spot 750 metres from one side of her farm to the other on the afternoon of Thursday, January 23.

That was the day fire burned from the north-west through 100 acres of her family's 380 acre property, south-west of Narooma.

She will also never forget the efforts of those who helped on that day.

"It has been going here for a month," she said.

The scene at Dignams Creek on February 1. Picture Fiona Kotvojs.

The scene at Dignams Creek on February 1. Picture Fiona Kotvojs.

"We had the fire at the back for some time and had been mapping its progress.

"On Thursday we were very well prepared.

"It was going nicely through the forest, but when the wind started it just moved very rapidly.

"When it got to the edge of our farm, it spotted from one side to the back of our house on the other side, which is about 750 metres.

"It went straight over. It started lots of fires across the farm, under trees, anywhere where there were leaves and sticks."

At risk were the home of her 90-year-old father, Martin, and the home Ms Kotvojs designed with her husband and fellow RFS volunteer Alan Burdon.

The houses and sheds were saved with the help of a visitor and neighbours.

Beekeeper Eric Croker had arrived to assess the farm for his hives and found himself fighting a fire.

"He called our neighbour 9km further out who was burnt out two weeks ago, Glen Thompson," Ms Kotvojs said.

"He showed up and helped fight with Charmaine Jamieson.

Crews assembled at Dignams Creek on February 1. Picture Greg Kotvojs.

Crews assembled at Dignams Creek on February 1. Picture Greg Kotvojs.

"Between us we saved the sheds at the northern end of the farm."

Ms Kotvojs said firefighters had done well to contain the loss of homes at Dignams Creek.

"They have done very well to limit it to two, given there is fire all around," she said.

Martin was away on January 23 when the fire came through, but was back to defend with his daughter on February 1.

The presence of RFS crews, a Queensland strike team and bulldozers gave them confidence for round two of the bout with the "dragon" that is the Badja Forest-Countegany fire.

Ms Kotvojs said a big effort was put in late this week.

"The strike team, Cobargo RFS and bulldozer operators have done a huge amount of work in the past couple of days to put in containment lines," she said.

The couple's dam was "pretty low" due to the helicopters relying on it to water bomb the western side of Gulaga and the northern end of Dignams Creek.

Ms Kotvojs and Mr Burdon are in the Cobargo RFS and with other Dignams Creek RFS volunteers have been doing night and day patrols.

Firefighters at Dignams Creek on February 1.

Firefighters at Dignams Creek on February 1.

Ms Kotvojs said the efforts of Dignams Creek volunteers had allowed Cobargo RFS Captain Mark Ayliffe and crew to focus on the Coolagolite fire, east of Cobargo.

Ms Kotvojs said their home was designed to handle bushfires.

"If you live surrounded by national park, it is not a case of 'if' you get burned'; it was a case of 'when' a bushfire will come.

"We knew it was inevitable."

The couple installed sprinklers on their roof "which are brilliant'.

Ms Kotvojs said three other households in Dignams Creek thank their watering systems for saving them on that ugly January day.

"They believe the only reason they survived is they have sprinklers," she said.

Ms Kotvojs runs the farm on her father's 380 acre property.

They farm beef cattle and have a fledgling truffle industry.

Ms Kotvojs said about half the property remains heavily timbered, despite her father's efforts to gain approval for a logging operation.

"If it had been logged, it would not have been burnt," she said.

She is grateful for what has been saved.

"We have been very fortunate,' she said. "We have lost some fences and patches of grass which will grow back."

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This story Facing a dragon, it helps to have an angel or three first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.