At Pierces Creek, to Canberra's west, a thin ribbon of silver snakes through the charred landscape. It is all that remains of the stolen ute that earlier this month sparked Canberra's biggest scare since the devastating 2003 firestorm. So intense was the blaze that the ute's aluminium engine block melted, dribbled down a shallow ditch and solidified into an unrecognisable puddle. If the drivers had been looking for a secluded spot to do their work, they had found it.
On the afternoon of November 1, they had driven the vehicle south-west of the Cotter Dam, almost an hour out of Canberra, dumping it deep in the back roads of the Pierces Creek pine forest.
Firefighters had been warning for weeks that Canberra was seeing conditions similar to the lead up of the deadly 2003 January bushfire, which killed four people, destroyed nearly 500 homes, tore up the outer suburbs and left an indelible mark on the city's psyche.
For weeks, park rangers had reported seeing more and more cars dumped and set alight in Canberra's parks.
Two hours before the November 1 blaze was first reported, ACT Policing had tried to stop a stolen blue Toyota Hilux Workmate with NSW registration.
The fire that followed burned up 204 hectares of pine forest, raging for four days and coming within seven kilometres of Tuggeranong.
Among those tasked with managing the dangerous and unpredictable situation was ACT Rural Fire Service senior liaison officer Chris Condon, ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Joe Murphy and ACT Parks and Conservation Service acting fire manager Adam McLachlan.
It was just as his usual 12-hour shift on Thursday, November 1 was winding up that Condon got word a fire had started out in Pierces Creek. By the time he arrived on the scene it had already eaten up about four hectares.
It would be another 24 hours before Condon would get any sleep.
By about 6.30pm on the Thursday, the winds had picked up and the fire started to grow.
Fuelled by the pine needles and blackberry bushes on the ground, the flames were soon carried into the tops of the trees by the wind, where they grew in intensity.
Firefighters didn't do changeovers during the night on the first day of a blaze - it was too dangerous, would have slowed down command to brief new firefighters and could have led to confusion.
"Crews [were] really starting to get a handle of the terrain; the fire activity," Murphy says.
But due to the fire and smoke, crews coming in the middle of night weren't able to get any sense of what they were working with.
Instead, those first responders spent most of the time on their feet taking short breaks down by a resting area, until they were relieved on Friday morning.
But not Condon - he stayed up in the ranges all night.
"I had my food brought up to me," he recalls.
"There were a few times [that night] we had to get crews to stand back a little bit and let it decide what it was going to do and settle down."
The aim was never to contain the fire but slow it down, as the terrain was too difficult and spot fires - small fires started by embers blowing ahead of the blaze - were making it too dangerous.
As Condon finally headed home for some rest, firefighters were battling to keep the fire from the nearby Bullen Ranges, about five kilometres west of Kambah.
Murphy says had the fire reached the ranges, Friday’s wild wind conditions would have driven it through the valley and into Tuggeranong.
It had become, in effect, a battle for Bullen.
"That would have been a whole different beast to worry about," says Murphy, surveying the now cold, blackened earth at the source of the fire.
"We were lucky the winds were quite low. Once it gets to the Bullen Range, it's windy, it gets up over the ridge and it's into the grasslands heading towards the suburbs."
By late that Friday erratic weather had arrived, bringing some rain but also complications as firefighters started working through the night to bulldoze in containment lines.
Murphy says the rain did nothing, but the humidity helped.
Firefighters in aircraft watched the fire from above and even infra-red cameras tracking the blaze were grounded for an hour as the storm blew through.
By Monday, with the threat of the fire under control and welcome rain on the way, McLachlan and park rangers began to turn their attention to the impacts on the landscape.
The forest grounds had been chewed up by the fire and fire trucks, meaning the soil was loose and could be carried by the rain into the nearby Murrumbidgee River Catchment, one of Canberra's drinking water sources.
The burned soil and the debris of what was left of the ute after police towed it out was still cordoned off by police tape.
The collapsed trees were a sign of how dense the forest around the car was before the fire. Some trees still hung over the spot, and metres away a creek bed infested with wild blackberry shrubs which were ripe for the fuel.
But the fire had jumped across the road, up the hill and to the east before, thanks to the erratic winds, carving a strange, random pattern around the forest, hampering firefighters' efforts.
Murphy says while the Pierces Creek blaze wasn't like 2003, conditions were similar. And eerie reminders of that terrible day a decade-and-a-half ago are all around.
In the foyer of The Canberra Times' offices in Fyshwick, a piece of art with odd lumps of metal and twisted springs hangs from the wall. It is the remains of the engine of firefighter Matt Dutkiewicz's car, which was melted to a puddle as Dutkiewicz battled in the hills alongside his colleagues to save the city's homes.
“The people of Canberra are quite complacent,” says Murphy.
"This was a good reminder: it wasn't particularly bad firefighting conditions but look what it did.
“Low humidity, a bit of heat, a bit of wind: it takes just a few conditions and away she goes ... or just some idiot with a car."