A court has heard recordings from two triple-0 calls made by a man accused of setting his house alight during the the Black Summer bushfires.
Recordings made 15 minutes apart on January 5, 2020 were played at day three of Darren Mark Colquhuon's Wollongong District Court trial on Thursday.
In the first call, made at 5.21am, he stops short of asking for urgent help, telling the operator: "I may be able to get [the fire] out. I'm just filling up my [firefighting] truck now. I'm just going to give it a good crack in a minute".
By the second call, he reports, "it's just taken off ... it's getting worse. I'm losing the house. I've got my hose, I'm hitting it ... it's not even making a dent. the whole house is falling down."
Colquhuon faces 14 charges, including one count of dishonestly, for gain, damaging property by fire. Police allege he pocketed more than $600,000 in payments from his insurer and organisations set up to help bushfire victims after his Barringella home was razed.
But in a police interview the day after the blaze, Colquhuon, 60, emphatically denied starting the fire, saying "it was embers. There's no ifs or buts about it".
He told police he had spent January 4 on "fire watch", making 2-3 hourly patrols of his property out of fear embers would ignite in his drought-affected paddocks, hampering future efforts to grow grass there.
He said a fire across the road had increased in ferocity and the farm was getting "embers on a constant".
He said he slept for a couple of hours, only to wake to the sound of his fire alarm going off, with smoke coming from his tiled roof. He said he saw an orange glow inside the roof and went to fight the fire with a large tank of water in the back of his ute, only to realise he'd used the entire water supply the day before.
"Just in my tiredness, a major oversight, I hadn't gone and filled it up," he said.
The court heard the electrician Colquhuon bought the property, just west of Nowra, about 20 years ago, with dreams of "an existence where [he and his then-wife] didn't need to work". He built Calymea into a working cattle and sheep farm with sidelines in canoe tours, horseriding and camping.
"The plan was to leave as little footprint on the earth as possible," he told police.
"[But] companies found out where I moved to ... I wanted to get away from people and start a farm but all of a sudden I was back out working again.
"I've worked since I was seven years old. I had two jobs at the age of 13. I still do multiple jobs ... I don't borrow money, I don't lend money, I don't buy flashy things unless I have the cash for it."
He told police he'd owned the property outright for six years and - now living there as a single man - had no financial incentive for destroying it.
"Why would I? I was happy where I was. When I finished work I just like to be left alone and chill out. I'm happy with what I've got. The bigger the house, the more you've got to maintain it. I came from a five bedroom house with four bathroom and a 20-metre swimming pool - it was too much."
"I definitely don't need the heartache and stress of building a new house, because I've got too many things happening in my life outside of that."
The court was played a recording of a call Colquhuon made to his insurer, NRMA, the day before the fire, in which he asked about whether he could take out contents insurance for the property. He tells the operator he had building insurance and that the fires he'd been fighting for four weeks were "out now".
"I've got an NRMA Farm Pack insurance - and I've got my building insured and everything else ... but I've got no contents insurance."
In earlier evidence, the court heard Colquhuon spoke to police on the day of the fire and told them, "I have farm insurance but I'm not sure if that covers the house". Police and firefighting witnesses have also given evidence that Colquhuon told them, on the day of the fire, that he was uninsured.
The trial resumes on Monday.
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