Matt Geelan stood on his roof with a hose as fire bore down on Bawley Point last Thursday.
With smoke hanging in the air, the South Coast hamlet looked like Silent Hill - and was just as empty.
Most people, including Mr Geelan's wife Ebony and their two children, had evacuated the previous Sunday.
But he wasn't going anywhere. He'd lived in Bawley Point his whole life and he had spent months renovating his house on Marramarang Road.
"If I was renting I probably would have just left," Mr Geelan said.
But he wasn't alone. As the flames raced towards him, firefighters formed a last line of defence between homes and the burning bush.
"I had a wall of firefighters in front of me," Mr Geelan said.
"Once the firies were sort of at the front I sort of felt like I didn't need to leave. I was very grateful.
"Before it hit I was standing out the front and they were reassuring me, saying we're going to do everything we can and they pretty much lined the street, just waiting for it to come.
"They were going to start moving further down the street, then that southerly hit and it sort of pushed it back onto itself so it stopped which was lucky, otherwise I reckon Bawley Point would be gone."
Incredibly, the Geelans' house is still standing. Scorched bush 20 metres away shows just how close the Currowan fire came.
But a heroic firefighting effort and a southerly winds change at just the right time meant residents returning to the area on Sunday and Monday had homes to come back to.
"If it wasn't for the firefighters, we wouldn't have our house now," Mrs Geelan said.
Life was returning to normal in Bawley Point on Tuesday. The school buses have returned, the bins have been collected, the shops have reopened and people are going back to work.
And like the smoke that came before it, gratitude is thick in the air.
There are makeshift signs praising the NSW Fire Service, and residents held a street party on Sunday night in honour of the firefighters who saved their community.
Fellow Bawley Point resident Tim Beckett said the information being fed through from the ground, from the Bawley Point Rural Fire Service Brigade in particular, made all the difference while he was waiting for news about his home.
"It really reduces the anxiety," Mr Beckett said.
He returned on Sunday to "three exceedingly ticked off chooks waiting to be fed".
With two dogs in one car, and two cats in another, he and his wife evacuated to Ulladulla last Sunday. They were unable to get accommodation so they spent that night sleeping in their cars with the pets.
"We got in and there was nowhere to go," Mr Beckett said.
Mr Beckett said it would take a while for the Bawley community to recover from the fires. But like the Australian bush around it, it will soon regenerate.