A terrible beast with no name visited the tiny hamlet of Wandella on New Year's Eve.
Among the black, leafless trees there at the back of Cobargo on the NSW far South Coast are sheets of corrugated iron, 12 metres up, twisted and wrapped around the protruding limb of the charred gums.
Below, on the side of the road, sits the roasted, twisted, melted back half of a Ford Falcon sedan. It had once been a complete car sitting in a paddock next to a house, 800 metres away.
The beast had picked up the car, ripped off the roof, tore the vehicle in half and flung it down the valley. The other half of the car was back across the valley. Somewhere.
When there's talk about a wildfire creating its own weather, its own madness, it sounds too incredible to believe. But this was nature's special effects studio writ large across a smashed and blackened landscape.
In the valleys at the back of Wandella, the Badga Forest Road fire manifested its intensity into a mini-tornado which whipped and spun across the ridgelines.
There's visible proof. One destroyed house had its roofing iron torn off and spat one way down a gully while a house a few hundred metres away had its iron ripped and thrown in a completely opposite direction.
There was no steady procession of a firefront through Wandella. This, as so many local people have described, was a churning, rolling, rotating thing which sucked the oxygen from the air, picked up cars weighing more than a tonne, tossed and carried them in the air, and crashed them back to earth.
Animals shouldn't have survived this blast furnace, hot enough to turn car wheels into puddles of alloy, but somehow, miraculously, they did.
Six terrified horses in a wooden round yard were still there when Jade Corby returned to his dad's farm, two days after the beast came down from the mountain.
The thick rubber lining of the yard was gone but somehow the support posts and rails remained. The horses were thirsty but alive. As were half a dozen chooks, still clucking away in their pens. The beast had consumed some, then moved on.
I walked outside and the air was like an oven. The wind was fierce and there was this roaring sound. You just knew something very bad was coming.Jade Corby
About 40 cows were buried in the Corbys' paddock down on the flat. There was more dead livestock still to be found. That job, like many, would take days, possibly weeks.
When Jade Corby had gathered his family and fled his farm around 3am on that fateful morning, he'd left his cows on an irrigated patch of green grass, the most protected place he could find, in the steep lee of the ridgeline. They were found down on the flat by the creek, burnt and suffering.
"Most were dead, the rest were too far gone to save," he said. "We had to shoot them."
Mr Corby had spent a listless night at home in Wandella before the fire. He woke at midnight, then again at 2am.
"I walked outside and the air was like an oven. The wind was fierce and there was this roaring sound. You just knew something very bad was coming."
There were two gates to open on the way out. On both, the metal was almost too hot to touch. He'd driven up the hill to his parents' house, gathered them up and driven out as the beast emerged from the mountains.
They headed down to his brother's place in the main street of Cobargo. Seven family members then fought the ember attack for two solid hours, using two 1000-litre water tanks and a pump on a trailer, backpack sprayers and anything they could find.
"We refilled the water tanks five times. It was tough going," he said.
Mr Corby runs a small welding and fabrication workshop in Bega.
He's a car nut and collector. He drove the local demolition derbys for fun "before the kids came along" and collected old cars for restoration, storing some at his dad's farm.
The 14 cars he had at the farm are now gone. One was a V8 Commodore ute on which he'd lavished hundreds of hours of attention, fitting swing-up Lamborghini-style doors and a $15,000 stereo and DVD system. The alloy wheels had melted away, the bespoke leather interior gutted and gone.
"This was my show car. It was nearly ready for rego. I was going to take it to Summernats next year," he said. "Not now."