TOM Bertolet said he was really scared on Saturday when he realised he was the last man to leave Dargan, near Lithgow, as the State Mine fire advanced.
He had watched the fire swallow his 75-year-old next door neighbour’s greenhouses and two aluminium sheds, then the police were knocking on his door telling him to leave everything and come with them.
Mr Bertolet said earlier in the day he got a message saying not to evacuate, but to stay put and hunker down.
At 9.15pm the police put him in his car and drove him out.
“I was upstairs watching the fire come up through my neighbour’s place,” Mr Bertolet said.
“They wanted me to get out, but they wouldn’t let me drive.
“I had two pups I needed to get out so one policeman drove me and the other took the pups.
“There was fire on both sides of the road and I realised that’s why they wouldn’t let me drive myself,” he said.
Mr Bertolet’s house was the first built on Valley View Road at Dargan.
Yesterday he wasn’t sure if it is still there or not.
He said there was a bushfire in the area in the 1990s but it stayed on the other side of the railway tracks.
“This is the first time our property has been affected,” he said.
Mr Bertolet said the fire flared up twice.
The first time it came up his paddock but stopped because there was nothing for it to feed on.
However his neighbour, who has a lot of bushland at the rear of her property, lost her sheds, greenhouses and 12,000 gallons of water.
The elderly lady and her two dogs are staying with him and his wife at a motel in Wallerawang.
Dargan was evacuated on Thursday and residents were allowed to return home on Friday.
However, come Saturday, they were evacuated once again.
By yesterday afternoon Mr Bertolet had high hopes that he might be allowed to return to his home.
“I have a donkey at home with no water and a cat in the house,” he said.
Mr Bertolet said firefighters have said they will get some water and food to his pets.
In the meantime, his two pups have gone to stay with the breeder they came from.
Mr Bertolet is also a keen gardner.
“I’ve got all these seedlings - they’re probably dead, and 160 azaleas in pots which are probably dead too,” he said.
“I was just getting ready to plant them.
“At least I’m still here.”
Mr Bertolet said given how dry the countryside is, he is not surprised by the extent and severity of the fire.
“With a 300km front I think this fire could go all the way to Bathurst,” he said.