Almost four years ago the Jessop family faced the flames on their Far South Coast dairy farm and lost, but this week amid sheer terror, they won.
On December 31, 2019, Black Summer fires tore into their family farm at Coolagolite and caused widespread damage and stock losses. This week the fire came again.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 3, 2023, during very hot and windy conditions, a fire ignited and again tore through tinder-dry bushland in Coolagolite.
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By 3pm on Thursday, the fire had burnt 6767 hectares of land, destroyed four homes, and came within two kilometres of the Jessop's farm but it was spared from the inferno.
"The winds were just horrific and I didn't know which way it was going to go, but it headed towards the sea," Margaret Jessop said. "I did have buckets of water ready."
"It's very traumatic for a lot of people who were burnt out."
During the Black Summer fires, the Jessop's farm suffered at least $250,000 worth of losses, including a hay shed, $30,000 worth of hay, a damaged irrigation system, plenty of fencing, and 20 heifers were killed.
"Some heifers [that didn't die] got their teats burnt, so they couldn't feed. We had to sell them off to market," Mrs Jessop said.
This week, however, the fire and the resources available to fight it were very different, she said.
By the time the fire swept into their property on New Year's Eve in 2019, firefighting resources were stretched as blazes had already been burning across NSW for months.
"There was no trucks before, but you can't compare, it was like a holocaust and it was so dry last time," Mrs Jessop said.
"At least we had a bit of daylight this time, last time we didn't see the sun for days [because of the bushfire smoke]."
Out-of-control bushfires aside, conditions are tough right now on the farm for Mrs Jessop, her husband John and their son Brett, and there's been no real rain since February.
"All the wattles have built up and that adds to the fuel for the fires," she said.
"We've had three good years after the last fire, but we're back feeding the cattle."
At 12pm on Thursday, the Coolagolite was listed as 'being controlled' and Mrs Jessop is hopeful this summer won't be as bad as Black Summer.
"We're a pretty resilient community, we help each other," she said.
This week's Coolagolite fire was so ferocious and triggering for South Coast communities, that it prompted a visit from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, NSW Premier Chris Minns and RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers to Bega the following day.
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