The people who did the right thing when fire ripped through the community of Ulladulla now face bills running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One business owner reckons the exodus of tourists has cost him $400,000.
The South Coast town is just one place closed by fire. Motels took in refugees without charge. Businesses closed. Tourists fled, taking their spending with them just when businesses expect to make the bulk of their profits.
A mountain of paperwork is now starting there to try to recoup money either from the federal disaster relief fund or from insurance companies. Businesses know that insurance companies have "forensic accountants" who will pore over the tiniest detail.
Motel owner Cathy Taylor took refugees in without charging them. On top of that, she now faces scant trade as the town reopens because the tourists are staying away. She's trying to persuade them to come back with discounts.
She's also going to try to recoup some of her losses from the government's disaster fund.
The owner of one surf shop in the town was going through stock, counting the cost. "We need to keep opening but there's no-one down here," he said.
Another businessman, Kent Saunders, reckons takings for his Southern Man surf shop will be down by 80 per cent for January, the month when he normally takes a third of his annual revenue,
He's waiting to see how much the insurance company will stump up for clothes which are unsellable because they've been tainted by smoke - even if the customers were there to come into the shop and spend.
He said he hoped the suppliers he had bought from might help by giving a rebate so he could put remaining goods on sale at a discount.
All the same, he radiates optimism. "We'll be strong," he said.
On what he calls "Armageddon Day", the town was shut off with no power. Aircraft were water-bombing fires. "It was like World War III," he said.
Tourists left. "Once the tourists left, it was like dollars floating away," he said.
But he added there was a tinge of relief because the visitors were getting out to safety.
"We love the tourists but we were happy to see them go because it meant they wouldn't get injured," he said.
"There's so much generosity in the town." He and his wife, Juanita, have been running the business 40 years and wouldn't rule out another 40 if the inevitable laws of nature don't intervene.
When businesses claim on insurance, they are expected to be asked for their accounts over the last three years.
Cathy Taylor of the Sandpiper Motel who took in evacuees hoped the disaster relief fund would make good some of her loss but "it's not as much as we would have got from holiday visitors".
She's also offering ingenious, community-spirited discounts for those she hopes will now come.
The motel will offer a free night there to any guest who produces four receipts from other nearby businesses if the total spend adds up to the usual cost of the night's stay.
"We want to try to spread the love around," she said.