There can be an inevitable feeling about a bushfire as it approaches: the preparing, the waiting, the watching. Sometimes it just comes on fast.
Matthew Hulse, who lives in a small house with his wife Kirsten and their son about six kilometres north-west of Braidwood, knew the fire would come in the last week of November.
"There's a saying in combat psychology. It's, 'Denial kills you twice'," he said. "Everyone says, 'If it comes', hoping it won't come. It's come and I think everyone has to understand even now, if you're off the hook [and the] fire goes past you, mate, you're not off the hook.
"One cigarette out the window... A small fire burning over there would, by the time it gets to us here, it'll kill you."
On that Friday, Mr Hulse, an experienced Rural Fire Service volunteer and aikido instructor, led the defence of his house as fire approached from the north through thick scrub.
They dropped 20,000 litres of water on the house and fire that night, stopping the spread in the open country down the hill. The house, barely three rooms, had been designed and sited to be defensible.
Mr Hulse had spoken to the tanking captain before it hit, explaining there was enough water and turning circles for the trucks.
"Tankers were holding back when they saw it and just went, 'Nup, we're not going down there.' And he just drove past them. Because he went past them, and set up here, they went, 'Can't be that bad'," he said.
Mr Hulse lost sheds and tanks on the ridge above the house, but another building survived. "I did stay here all night. The guys had a bit of a beer in the paddock and invited me down and I was like, 'Nah, nah. I'll just keep driving around in circles putting stuff out. Putting things out.'
"And even then, I probably had a bit of a shower, turned the gas back on. I think I laid down for a couple of minutes, but then sort of woke up and just kept doing it."
But, for Mr Hulse, it is not just his own place. Long shifts - the longest was 42 hours - have been spent defending neighbours' and friends' houses.
"The other thing I've been doing a bit of is turning up to people's houses and saying, 'Look, shut that door. You've got a hay shed there and if you get one ember blows in there, it'll be [over]'. Just helping people, even doing signage for people. Telling [firefighters] there's a safe refuge, telling people you've got water," he said.
But it was important to keep level-headed about the fire, which had burned for a month, Mr Hulse said.
"Look, it is so widespread and so many people have lost so much stuff. And I think even for me to sit here ... I actually did say about this fire, we'll be laughing at how insignificant this was. This came in light as. One, you know it's light because the house is here. If it had come in hot, you know."
Mr Hulse told a very experienced firefighter down from Sydney to defend his mother's home that he wasn't scared of fire anymore, just wind.
"And he goes, 'Mate, temperature. F--k wind. Temperature'. It's not January yet. There's still a lot of unburnt ground. The fire doesn't care. This has just started."
It was important to keep an eye on what was left, not what was gone.
"We're all alive, bang. Even what you have learned about yourself. In survival, they say, the more you know, the less you need. So there is this point ... I'm kind of joking up here, but decluttering's a thing. It's the ultimate declutter, mate."