As fire closed around their property at the back of Malua Bay, Tammie Seidel was faced with a heart-breaking decision.
She had her dog in the car and one of her horses, Smudge, on her float but the other, a seven-year-old Arab called Caspian, refused to load.
"I'm looking across at the fire coming down through the bush toward our fenceline and thinking: 'what do I do now?'," she said.
"He [Caspian] is a bugger to load at the best of times and we almost had him on [the float] but then he backed out again.
"There was no time left so we just had to leave him and go. It's the worst possible feeling to leave a horse behind like that."
Like many residents in the Batemans Bay area on that New Year's Eve morning, the change in the fire's speed and direction caught Ms Seidel by surprise.
Living on five acres on a cul de sac with bushland behind her, she had been keeping a wary eye on all the fire warnings and rose around 5.30am to feed her horses.
"There was heavy smoke all around and I heard from the RFS that there was fire at Mogo," she said.
"I had been waiting on the water truck to deliver because our tanks were almost empty.
"It looked like the Mogo fire was heading south-west to Tomakin but then about 8.30am, the fire jumped Dunns Creek and headed toward us."
When the water delivery company rang and said their truck couldn't get through because power lines were down over the road, that's when she knew it was time to get out and her frantic efforts to load Caspian ensued, but in vain.
"We had hardly any grass to burn anyway because of the drought. And he [Caspian] had the whole five acres plus the house as protection," she said.
"There's only one way in and one way out of our place. The neighbours had already evacuated. I couldn't leave it any later."
Under a blood-red sky she drove to the beach, unloaded, and with hundreds of other Malua Bay residents and all their pets, watched, alarmed and bewildered, as the bushfire rolled toward them.
She described the spectacle from the beach as "surreal".
"A house would catch [fire] and you'd see this huge billow of flame and smoke and the booms as gas bottles exploded," she said.
"We moved down here from Campbelltown about 20 years ago. It's so hard to believe that a bushfire would reach this far into these beachside suburbs.
"But then, it happened at Tathra so I suppose that should have been a warning."
Given houses much closer to the beach than hers had been destroyed, Tammie Seidel feared the worst for Caspian. After dossing down at a friend's place that night, with a heavy heart she returned to her property the next day.
"On the driveway going in there were all these dead wallabies. Our neighbour's house was destroyed but, miraculously, our house was still there."
Then, in the smoke haze, she saw Caspian. He was at the bottom of the blackened paddock, still up and still alive.
His muzzle and eyes had been burned by the radiant heat, and his hooves singed. He's now in a paddock at the Moruya vet clinic, his blackened skin peeling but on his way to a full recovery.
"He seemed okay at first but then went into shock, so the vet said to bring him down," she said.
And her advice for others caught in the same position?
"If you plan to leave and you have animals, always give yourself plenty of time for contingencies," she said.