Nerriga Hotel became the sanctuary from the devastating Tianjara bushfire as it descended on the town at speed on Saturday.
As more than 30 people evacuated to the pub, firefighters and residents hosed the building with water, protecting it from embers.
Hotel owner Phil Smith received a phone call in the afternoon warning him the bushfire was only 30 minutes from hitting the town.
Evacuees assembled at Nerriga's community hall while Mr Smith and a pub employee waited for the blaze to arrive.
Residents stood outside and hosed down the hotel, and firefighters later joined them in keeping the building soaked.
Conditions deteriorated in about 40 minutes after the phone call Mr Smith received.
"The smoke was getting so thick we put the goggles and masks on and hung around," he said.
His wife and their infant child had also stayed behind in Nerriga.
Evacuees moved to the hotel from the hall, where the smoke was too thick.
Residents living on the town's main street, and others from Sassafras, Tianjara, Oallen and nearby properties, found shelter at the pub.
Firefighters told them to go inside the pub immediately as the fire arrived. Soon, embers began to descend.
Mr Smith counted about 30 gathered inside, waiting for the fire to pass, while others watched from outside.
Nerriga resident Jim Sommerville lost his motorhome on Meangora Road to the fire. His son's house, on the same property, was destroyed too.
"Living in a bush block, we knew we were going to lose it," Mr Sommerville said.
After he and his son evacuated the property, Mr Sommerville watched the fire approach Nerriga from the front of the town's hotel.
The blaze raced towards Nerriga at about 70km/h, he said.
"We were just surrounded, you couldn't see anything, you couldn't even see the end of the road, there was that much smoke," Mr Sommerville said.
A bushfire-generated thunderstorm emerged over the Tianjara fire.
"The fire was burning with that much heat, and the rain started to come with the cloud and the lightning," Mr Sommerville said.
Mr Smith said it was a one- to two-hour wait until the fire passed. It left properties destroyed in its wake, but the hotel survived.
"The look on the firefighters' faces when they got here and when it was all sort of calmed down, it told how bad it was," Mr Smith said.
Evacuees stayed the night at the hotel, while others slept in cars, caravans and swags. Mr Smith fed them without charge.
He and his wife were preparing to put on a free dinner for 140 firefighters and residents on Sunday.
"It's just amazing to see everyone stick together," Mr Smith said.
Nerriga volunteer firefighter Dave Vanessen said the fire brought "total darkness" to the town.
"If I wanted to compare that experience with something, it's like being in the worst hail storm where you want to find cover. Hail as big as a golf ball," he said.
"That experience was worse. It had all the makings of a storm, but instead of rain, we got fire.
"The wind came from every direction. It was an ember attack."
Earlier, residents could see into the distance, but fire turned the area dark on Saturday.
"It's like the last day of your life," Mr Vanessen said.