It wasn’t so long ago that Australians were fighting another dangerous peril.
Not unlike the coronavirus, this peril destroyed people’s livelihoods and claimed many lives aswell.
And those fortunate enough to survive were left stunned and picking through the ashes for fragments of a former life.
On the day bushfires raged across the NSW South Coast, Jeff Brooks was preparing to take out a fishing charter.
“It was the morning of New Year’s Eve,” he said.
“I do fishing charters and I got up at 4am to check the weather. The forecast wasn’t very good, but it didn’t really indicate what was going to happen that day.”
As conditions worsened, Mr Brooks and his deckhand spent the day wetting down the brick home he shared with his partner, Margaret, overlooking Batemans Bay and the islands beyond.
“We thought it won’t get us, but we’ll be prepared anyway,” Mr Brooks said.
“It just got worse and worse so Margaret grabbed a few things and went to my brother’s place. We said we’d see each other later on, that everything would be good.
“It was like a tornado came through in the direction of our house.
“Only 300m up the hill from us a house burst into flames and then another to the side of that.
“It was so hot and windy, and really hard to breath.
“In the end it got too much so we jumped in the car and drove away.
“We were confident that we’d go back and the house would still be there.”
When the couple was finally able to return later that night, they discovered their home had been destroyed.
“It was like a bomb had gone off inside the house,” Mr Brooks said. “The roof had collapsed, the walls were blown over and the aluminium windows had melted.
“We had been there for 19 years. There were a lot of memories and a lifetime of possessions inside – photos, jewellery, furniture – everything was just gone.”
After months of bedhopping between family, a tourist park and a short-term rental, the couple is preparing for a fresh start on the Gold Coast.
Home is soon to be 12 Dirk Hartog place, Hollywell, purchased for $1.5 million in a deal handled by Alex Phillis Luxury Real Estate.
The house was built by Eric Roth, who was responsible for some of the Gold Coast’s most prestigious homes in the early 2000s.
But for a keen angler, it’s the 23 metres of waterfrontage and onsite pontoon that hold the main appeal.
“We can just tie the boat up at the back of the house and fish when we want,” Mr Brooks said.
“We hope to be settled in before winter, but with all of the border closures we’re not sure how that will pan out.
“A lot of people are in a worse position than us right now though, at least we’ve got a roof over our heads.”