'Fire Started Raining Down': South Coast Holidaymakers Seek Refuge on Beach From Dangerous Bushfire

Madeleine Kelly and her family had a New Year’s Eve to remember for all the wrong reasons when they had to evacuate the home they were holidaying in Rosedale, New South Wales, and take shelter on a nearby beach as a fire approached.

An emergency warning had been issued by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, urging residents to “leave towards the beach and shelter”, and a neighbor alerted Kelly and her family they had to evacuate.

Withing a few hours of getting to the beach, “everything around us was ablaze,” Kelly told Storyful. “Fire started raining down around us.”

Kelly said she found it hard to breathe or see, telling Storyful that her eyes were burning from the smoke. Winds whipped up too, she said, strong enough to physically push her back. A change in wind direction brought some relief to those gathered on the beach, but it was too late for several properties in the town.

By January 1, scores of homes were confirmed as destroyed along the New South Wales south coast, including 15 in Rosedale and 40 at nearby Malua Bay, where hundreds of people had to shelter on a beach overnight.

Kelly and her family were able to get off the beach by the evening. “It was a horrible experience,” she said, “made worse by the fear of what my family stuck in Canberra must be thinking and worrying about me. Children were screaming and crying.”

Luckily for Kelly, after one night at an evacuation point, she and her family “were able to return home to Canberra because we had enough fuel.”

On January 2, the Clyde Mountain Fire was still burning out of control and continuing to affect areas south of Batemans Bay. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service was urging people to evacuate as worsening conditions were expected for the weekend. Credit: Madeleine Kelly via Storyful