An Australian man who became trapped by a bushfire has described how he survived the inferno as it tore through his property at the weekend.
Steve Harrison decided to stay for as long as possible to defend his home in the New South Wales village of Balmoral, which was all but wiped out by the out-of-control fires on Saturday.
"When it came, it came in like three or four minutes, just a big plume of black smoke and then ember fallout," recalled Mr Harrison.
In an interview with ABC, the 67-year-old artist described how he frantically tried to turn on the sprinklers on buildings in his property but within minutes he found himself trapped, unable to escape.
"My garden was already on fire here. And the driveway was on fire, and the road was on fire. So I realised I couldn't evacuate," Mr Harrison said.
Steve Harrison is lucky to be alive. The potter hid in his ‘makeshift kiln’ for 20 mins as the Green Wattle Creek #fire engulfed his property. He watched his beloved potting shed burn to the ground but thankfully his house is still standing. @firstname.lastname@example.org/mG6o73MBLF— Lydia Feng (@LydiaLFeng) December 22, 2019
He said he had to turn to his plan B: Hiding in a small kiln, just the size of a coffin, that he had built the day before. It was just big enough for him to crawl inside, he said.
"I hid in there for half an hour while the firestorm went over," he said. "It was huge, just glowing orange-red everywhere. Just scary. I was terrified."
Mr Harrison said all his neighbours' homes had been destroyed, but his efforts to protect his home meant it was still standing.
"I put a lot of money and effort and time into putting dedicated firefighting pumps just to run the sprinklers on the walls and roof," he told ABC News. "My wife and I spent the day wrapping [the house] up in aluminium foil to reflect the heat."
The village of Balmoral, southwest of Sydney, was devastated by the Green Wattle Creek firestorm that roared through the area twice in three days.
Dozens of homes have been lost since Thursday in massive wildfires, including the Gospers Mountain blaze, which covered more than 460,000 hectares (1.1 million acres).
Scorching heat baking the country eased on Monday bringing relief from the bushfires, which destroyed around 180 houses and killed one person over the weekend, allowing firefighters to prepare for worsening conditions post-Christmas.
Six people have now died in bushfires which have destroyed more than 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) across five states.
Nearly 100 fires are burning across New South Wales state.
"Conditions have begun to ease," the New South Wales (state) Rural Fire Service said on Monday.
"Crews will continue their work today to identify and strengthen (fire) containment lines, with favourable conditions over coming days."
Temperatures are forecast to spike again in many states by the weekend, with the South Australian capital city of Adelaide forecast to reach 39 Celsius (102.2 Fahrenheit), according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Similar temperatures are expected in the Victorian city of Melbourne.
Under-fire Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected calls for "reckless" and "job-destroying" cuts to the country's vast coal industry in the face of the deadly climate-fuelled bushfire crisis.
Mr Morrison's conservative government has fiercely defended the lucrative coal industry in Australia, which produces a third of global coal exports and provides work in key swing electoral districts.
"I am not going to write off the jobs of thousands of Australians by walking away from traditional industries," Morrison told the Seven Network, in one of several morning interviews rejecting calls for further action.
"What we won't do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching targets which are being sought," he told Channel 9, responding to calls for more climate-friendly policies.
Mr Morrison's media blitz came as he sought to limit the political fallout from a much-criticised Hawaiian holiday - taken as bushfires destroyed an area the size of Belgium and unleashed toxic smoke into Australia's major cities.